December 20, 2006, 7:22 PM CT
Botox Can Ease Writer's Cramp
"Botox"' the popular anti- wrinkle therapy, can also ease writer's cramp, suggests a small study published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Writer's cramp describes the painful involuntary, spasmodic muscle contractions of the fingers, hand, or arm during writing. But it can also occur during other manual tasks.
Some people learn to write with their other hand, but in one in four cases, the condition affects both hands, and the condition is difficult to treat. It affects around three to seven in every 100,000 people.
Relaxation techniques, hypnosis, biofeedback, acupuncture, and 'writing re-education exercises' have all been used, but none of these brings sustained relief. And there is as yet no effective drug therapy.
Forty people with writer's cramp were randomly assigned to a course of injections containing either botulinum toxin (botox) or a dummy substitute in two doses, commonly into two muscles, over a period of 12 weeks.
Of the 20 people given botox therapy, 14 (70%) said that their condition had significantly improved, and that they wished to continue therapy. Their improvement was confirmed using validated disability and pain scales.
Only six of the 19 people in the dummy group felt that their condition had improved. One person dropped out of the trial.........
Posted by: Daniel Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 7:18 PM CT
Snake-like Robot Could Assist Surgeons
The snake-like robot designed by Johns Hopkins engineers
Credit: Will Kirk/JH
Drawing on advances in robotics and computer technology, Johns Hopkins University scientists are designing new high-tech medical tools to equip the operating room of the future. These systems and instruments could someday help doctors treat patients more safely and effectively and allow them to perform surgical tasks that are nearly impossible today.
The tools include a snakelike robot that could enable surgeons, operating in the narrow throat region, to make incisions and tie sutures with greater dexterity and precision. Another robot, the steady-hand, may curb a surgeon's natural tremor and allow the doctor to inject drugs into tiny blood vessels in the eye, dissolving clots that can damage vision.
These and other projects are being built by teams in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology, based at Johns Hopkins. Launched in 1998 with funding from the NSF, the center aims to transform and improve the way a number of medical procedures are performed.
Working closely with physicians from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the center's engineers and computer researchers are building robotic assistants intended to enhance a surgeon's skills. They are devising detailed visual displays to guide a doctor before and during a difficult medical procedure and planning digital workstations that would give the doctor instant access to an enormous amount of medical information about the patient.........
Posted by: Scott Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 6:47 PM CT
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome In Children
Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) have particular difficulty understanding numbers and sequences, a University of Alberta study shows.
An assessment of 50 Canadian children diagnosed with FASD, a condition caused by the mother's alcohol consumption while a fetus is still in the womb, revealed that the youngsters had specific deficits in memory for numbers and sequences, which may contribute to common math difficulties faced by these children. Prenatal alcohol abuse often leaves them with losses in physical, behavioural, emotional and social functioning.
The findings of the study, reported in the recent issue of Child Neuropsychology, may help refine assessments of FASD children and provide a 'neurobehavioural profile' to ensure they receive the most effective therapy possible, said lead author Dr. Carmen Rasmussen, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
"Knowing this would help in classrooms with FASD children," said Rasmussen. The typical teaching rate may be too rapid for children with FASD, resulting in large amounts of missed information, she said. "The study definitely has implications for therapy and education down the road".
The FASD children, aged six to 15 years, scored lower than other 84 per cent of other children their age on memory tests for numbers and sequences.........
Posted by: JoAnn Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 5:05 AM CT
Androgen Therapy To Slow Progress Of Alzheimer's Disease
Experiments on mouse models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) suggest that therapy with male sex hormones might slow its progression. The findings, reported in the December 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience
, provide new insight into the relationship between testosterone loss and AD, which affects 4.5 million Americans.
Senior author Christian Pike, PhD, of the University of Southern California (USC), with colleagues at USC and the University of California, Irvine, sought to better understand the role hormones play in aging and disease. Recent studies had already established a link between testosterone loss in men and AD due to natural aging.
The research team established a connection between low testosterone and elevated beta-amyloid (A), a protein that accumulates abnormally in AD patients. This finding, they say, suggests that testosterone depletion in aging men may be a risk factor for AD by promoting accumulation of A in the brain. Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, is one in a group of related steroid hormones referred to as androgens. Recent studies suggest that androgens may lower A levels.
"This study raises the possibility that androgen replacement treatment might lower the risk for Alzheimer's, but this is far from proven," says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, chair of the Alzheimer's Association's Medical and Scientific Advisory Council and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University. "Because testosterone is rapidly converted to estrogen after entry into neurons, the new data are logical, and they dovetail well with historical data".........
Posted by: Daniel Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 4:41 AM CT
Impulsiveness Linked To Brain's Reward Center
If you are acting lately very impulsively now you can blame on your brain. A new imaging study shows that our brains react with varying sensitivity to reward and suggests that people most susceptible to impulse&mdashthose who need to buy it, eat it, or have it, now
show the greatest activity in a reward center of the brain. The study appears in the December 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience
In their study of 45 subjects, Ahmad Hariri, PhD, and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and collaborators at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Chicago showed that activity in the ventral striatum, a core component of the brain's reward circuitry, correlated with individuals' impulsiveness.
"These data are exciting because they begin to unravel individual differences in brain organization underlying differences in complex psychological constructs, such as 'impulsivity,' which may contribute to the propensity to addiction," says Terry E. Robinson, PhD, of the University of Michigan biopsychology program.
The Hariri team tested the subjects on two computer-based tasks. First, participants indicated their preferences in a series of immediate-versus-delayed, hypothetical monetary rewards. They chose between receiving an amount from 10 cents to $105 that day and receiving $100 at one of seven points up to five years in the future. "Switch points"the value at which they were equally likely to choose getting money today as getting $100 at a future point in timewere calculated for each person.........
Posted by: JoAnn Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 4:28 AM CT
Blood Transfusions Raise Infection And Death Risk
Blood transfusions save the lives of millions of heart surgery patients and others each year. But a new study suggests that patients who receive transfusions during heart bypass surgery have a higher risk of developing potentially dangerous infections, and dying, after their operation.
In fact, this increased risk may help explain a longstanding medical mystery: why women bypass patients are more likely than men to die in the first few months after surgery. Women are more likely to receive blood during heart bypass operations, which are performed on more than 465,000 Americans each year.
The findings, from the Patient Safety Enhancement Program (PSEP) at the University of Michigan Health System, are based on data from 9,218 Michigan bypass patients. After adjusting for factors such as the urgency of the operation, those who received blood transfusions from donors were five times more likely to die within 100 days of their operation than those who did not.
The paper is reported in the recent issue of the American Heart Journal. It builds on a prior U-M analysis that observed that a difference in infection rates accounted for the difference in death risk between men and women bypass patients.
The U-M team, with the help of Neil Blumberg, M.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, focused on blood transfusions as a contributing factor. Previous research has shown that recipients of stored donor blood have more post-surgical infections, and that women receive more transfusions because they tend to have lower hemoglobin concentrations.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 4:19 AM CT
Link Between Nanoparticles And Kidney Stones
Scientists at Mayo Clinic have successfully isolated nanoparticles from human kidney stones in cell cultures and have isolated proteins, RNA and DNA that appear to be linked to nanoparticles. The findings, which appear in the recent issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine, are significant because it is one step closer in solving the mystery of whether nanoparticles are viable living forms that can lead to disease -- in this case, kidney stones.
Kidney stones are linked to pathologic calcification, the process in which organs and blood vessels become clogged with calcium deposits that can damage major organs like the heart and kidneys. What causes calcium deposits to build up is not entirely known. Medical researchers at Mayo Clinic are studying calcification at the molecular level in an effort to determine how this phenomenon occurs.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that links calcification to the presence of nanosized particles, particles so small that some researchers question whether a nanoparticle can live and if so, play a viable role in the development of kidney stones.
The presence of proteins, RNA and DNA does not prove that nanoparticles are viable living forms because a genetic signature has not been identified, says the study's author John Lieske, M.D., a nephrologist with Mayo Clinic. A genetic signature would prove that nanoparticles are indeed living forms that replicate and can cause disease.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 4:15 AM CT
Language Used By Nerve Cells
Image showing junction (green) between nerve (red) and muscle cells (blue)
Credit: Laura N. Borodinsky, UCSD
UC San Diego biologists have shown that the chemical language with which neurons communicate depends on the pattern of electrical activity in the developing nervous system. The findings suggest that modification of nerve activity could have potential as a therapy for a wide range of brain disorders.
In the study, published this week in the early on-line edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the biologists showed that, contrary to the prevailing viewpoint, neurotransmitters-the chemical language of nerve cells-and receptors-the proteins that receive and respond to neurotransmitters-are not specified by a rigid genetic program. Altering nerve activity during development determines the "mother tongue" nerve cells use to communicate. The study will appear in the print edition of PNAS on January 2.
"Most cognitive disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, involve problems with neurotransmitters or neurotransmitter receptors," said Nicholas Spitzer, a professor of biology and the senior author of the study. "If modifying electrical activity in the adult brain can alter neurotransmitters and receptors similarly to the way we have discovered in the developing frog nervous system, it could provide a promising approach to treating these disorders".........
Posted by: Daniel Permalink Source
December 20, 2006, 4:08 AM CT
Majority Of Ulcerative Colitis Patients Are Not Compliant
New York, NY December 18, 2006 A new, large survey supported by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) finds that 65 percent of ulcerative colitis (UC) patients are less than fully compliant with first-line therapies to treat their disease. The findings are significant because an earlier study observed that patients less than fully compliant experience five times the number of disease flare-ups.
Respondents to the CCFA survey were taking a variety of aminosalicylates, medications which help relieve symptoms and inflammation for a number of UC sufferers, but which require multiple pills be taken two to four times a day. CCFA conducted the survey to gain a better understanding of patients' experiences with UC and these medications.
The most usually reported reasons for non-compliance with medications were the dosing frequency, the number of pills and the inconvenience linked to the medication. Seventy-four percent of the 1,595 UC sufferers included in the survey experienced at least one flare-up of UC during the prior year. Flare-ups can involve heightened symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue as well as complications such as anemia.
"The study shows that a number of patients struggle to comply with their current medicine regimen because they have to take multiple pills throughout the day," said the survey report's author Edward V. Loftus, Jr., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. "And we know that when UC patients don't take their medications as prescribed, it can have a significant impact on their health and quality of life".........
Posted by: Sue Permalink Source
December 18, 2006, 7:52 PM CT
Breast Cancer Metastases Early detection
GeneSearch- Breast Lymph Node (BLN) Assay, a gene-based diagnostic test has greater sensitivity than traditional intra-operative methods of detecting the spread of breast cancer to the lymph nodes. In the recent study that was presented at 29th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium GeneSearch- Breast Lymph Node (BLN) Assay was shown to do give superior results. GeneSearch- BLN Assay demonstrated overall sensitivity at least 10 percentage points higher than traditional intra-operative tests.
"These results indicate the potential advantage of the GeneSearch- BLN Assay as an objective, standardized test that can assess breast cancer metastasis in the lymph nodes rapidly and with greater overall sensitivity than the current standard of care," said study investigator Peter W. Blumencranz, MD, FACS, Medical Director of Comprehensive Breast Health and Cancer Services, Morton Plant Mease Healthcare, and Medical Director of Moffitt Morton Plant Cancer Care, Clearwater, Florida. "This intra-operative test may provide surgeons with critical information that can help them optimize treatment decisions by allowing them to determine the scope of the surgery required".
In the study that was presented involves 416 patients across 11 clinical trial sites, sentinel lymph nodes were tested using the GeneSearch- BLN Assay and current methods for assessing nodal tissue during surgery (frozen section (FS) or touch preparations (TP)). All nodes were sampled for permanent section hematoxylin/eosin (H&E), and most were also sampled for immunohistochemistry (IHC). The GeneSearch- BLN Assay, FS and TP results were each compared to permanent section histology results to determine the performance of each method. The test was evaluated in terms of sensitivity and specificity, which measure how well the method correctly identifies nodes with and without clinically relevant metastases. Tests with lower sensitivity have a higher chance of false negatives, and tests with lower specificity have a higher chance of false positives.........
Posted by: Janet Permalink Source