April 21, 2008, 8:09 PM CT
Chocolate bar shown to lower cholesterol
The results of a University of Illinois study have demonstrated an effective way to lower cholesterol levels by eating chocolate bars.
Eating two CocoaVia dark chocolate bars a day not only lowered cholesterol, it had the unexpected effect of also lowering systolic blood pressure, said John Erdman, a U. of I. professor of food science and human nutrition.
The study, funded in part by Mars Inc., the company that makes the bars, was published in this months Journal of Nutrition.
Erdman attributes the drop in cholesterol numbers (total cholesterol by 2 percent and LDL or bad cholesterol by 5.3 percent) to the plant sterols that have been added to the bar and the drop in blood pressure to the flavanols found in dark chocolate.
Erdman says that some people will assume the study is flawed because of Mars funding role.
I know that it was a double-blinded trial that wasnt skewed toward a particular result, said Erdman, who chairs the Mars Scientific Advisory Council. Moreover, the paper was peer-evaluated and reported in the Journal of Nutrition, which ranks in the top 10 percent of all the biological science journals. Mars has spent millions of dollars studying the biological impact of the flavanols found in cocoa beans and learning how to retain their benefits during the refining process, Erdman said.........
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April 21, 2008, 7:54 PM CT
Why teens get hooked on cocaine more easily
New drug research suggests that teens may get addicted and relapse more easily than adults because developing brains are more powerfully motivated by drug-related cues. This conclusion has been reached by scientists who observed that adolescent rats given cocaine a powerfully addicting stimulant were more likely than adults to prefer the place where they got it. That learned association endured: Even after experimenters extinguished the drug-linked preference, a small reinstating dose of cocaine appeared to rekindle that preference but only in the adolescent rats.
The research, performed at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical Schools largest psychiatric facility, was published in the recent issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association.
Evidence that younger brains get stuck on drug-related stimuli reinforces real-world data. Epidemiological studies confirm that of people in various age groups who experiment with drugs, teens are by far the most likely to become addicted. Thus, the new findings may be useful in developing new therapys for youthful addiction.
In the study, psychology experts Heather Brenhouse, PhD, and Susan Andersen, PhD, who directs McLeans Developmental Psychopharmacology Laboratory, introduced rats that were 38 or 77 days old (equivalent to 13 or 20 human years) to an apparatus with one central and two larger side chambers that had different flooring, wall colors and lighting. For three days in a row, the scientists injected the rats with saline solution in the morning and placed them in one side chamber for an hour. Four hours later, they injected them with a preference-forming dose of cocaine (either 10 or 20 mg per kg of weight, to assess two doses known to be habit-forming) and placed them in the opposite-side chamber for an hour. Conditioning this way kept the rats from associating the symptoms of withdrawal with the non-drug chamber.........
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April 21, 2008, 6:34 PM CT
Brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate
The human brain responds to being treated fairly the same way it responds to winning money and eating chocolate, UCLA researchers report. Being treated fairly turns on the brain's reward circuitry.
"We may be hard-wired to treat fairness as a reward," said co-author of study Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience.
"Receiving a fair offer activates the same brain circuitry as when we eat craved food, win money or see a beautiful face," said Golnaz Tabibnia, a postdoctoral scholar at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and lead author of the study, which appears in the recent issue of the journal Psychological Science.
The activated brain regions include the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Humans share the ventral striatum with rats, mice and monkeys, Tabibnia said.
"Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats," she said. This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need, she added.
In the study, subjects were asked whether they would accept or decline another person's offer to divide money in a particular way. If they declined, neither they nor the person making the offer would receive anything. Some of the offers were fair, such as receiving $5 out of $10 or $12, while others were unfair, such as receiving $5 out of $23.........
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April 21, 2008, 6:08 PM CT
Sharper imags: sports vision clinic
The Dynavision is a peg board that requires athletes to hit the red buttons as they light up. The Sports Vision Performance Center uses the machine to determine reaction time, peripheral awareness and accuracy of movement.
Photo courtesy of University Eye Institute.
The standard eye chart only covers letters and numbers, but athletes need above average vision to track balls hurtling toward them at alarming speeds. To test those special skills, a University of Houston optometrist has founded the Sports Vision Performance Center, a facility where athletes perform while a strobe light is flashing, play tag with a board of lights and engage in other activities designed to improve their visual abilities.
The biggest problem that athletes face is not knowing they can potentially see much better than 20/20 vision, said Kevin Gee, a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and an assistant clinical professor with the UH College of Optometry. Gee opened the Sports Vision Performance Center in January to individual athletes and teams from various sports, and utilizes a range of tests to analyze what is called the visual system.
The visual system is more than just whats the smallest line on the chart you can see, Gee said. The visual system consists of a number of things, but specifically for sports, depth perception, color, speed and accuracy of movements and contrast sensitivity or the ability to detect an object off a background.
To assess these skills, Gee and his staff use instruments, such as a 3-D movie projected on a computer screen with shimmering objects that pop up to measure depth perception, a lighted batting test that can time up to one-thousandth of a second to gauge timing and accuracy, and a Dynavision board a vertical lighted peg board that determines reaction time, peripheral awareness and accuracy of movement.........
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April 21, 2008, 6:03 PM CT
Counseling trauma victims causes secondary trauma
Hearing repeated stories of suffering from trauma victims causes serious psychological stress in clinical social workers, a new Geisinger-led study suggests.
In a study appearing in the May edition of Research on Social Work Practice, Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH and his co-scientists examined psychological stress, job burnout and secondary trauma among 236 New York City social workers following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Secondary trauma includes experiencing symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress such as having nightmares or flashbacks, being easily startled and avoiding situations that remind one of the original trauma. Sometimes called vicarious trauma, it can seriously impact the mental health of counselors, first responders, critical care nurses and others in healthcare professions involved with treating those exposed to traumatic events, Boscarino said.
The study observed that involvement in World Trade Center recovery effort was the primary reason why social workers experienced secondary trauma.
The research also showed that a positive work environment for social workers helped reduce secondary trauma and prevent job burnout.
Listening to a persons traumatic experiences can be a very difficult experience for a clinician, Boscarino said. Sometimes caregivers need emotional support of their own and if they dont get it, they can become emotionally ill.........
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April 17, 2008, 8:26 PM CT
Breakthrough in migraine genetics
Migraine is the most common cause of episodic headache, and by far the most common neurological cause of a doctors visit. It affects some 15% of the population, including some 41 million people in Europe, and places a considerable burden on healthcare in both the developed and the developing world.
During the last few years, great strides have been made in discovering common genes influencing the susceptibility to common diseases, such as diabetes, Crohns disease and schizophrenia. However, no genes have yet been convincingly linked to migraine susceptibility, probably due to the high degree of variability of the disease phenotype combined with the lack of viable laboratory tests.
To address this problem, we developed a new analysis technique concentrating on different symptoms of migraine, says Professor Aarno Palotie (University of Helsinki, Finland, and the Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK). The new technique was used in the large international study including 1700 migraine patients and their close relatives from 210 Finnish and Australian migraine families. The Finnish families had been ascertained through neurology clinics, while the Australian families had been collected through a twin study. An initial genome-wide microsatellite study was followed up by an independent targeted replication study.........
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April 17, 2008, 8:14 PM CT
How dietary restriction slows down aging
University of Washington researchers have uncovered details about the mechanisms through which dietary restriction slows the aging process. Working in yeast cells, the scientists have linked ribosomes, the protein-making factories in living cells, and Gcn4, a specialized protein that aids in the expression of genetic information, to the pathways correlation to dietary response and aging. The study, which was led by UW faculty members Brian Kennedy and Matt Kaeberlein, appears in the April 18 issue of the journal Cell.
Prior research has shown that the lifespan-extending properties of dietary restriction are mediated in part by reduced signaling through TOR, an enzyme involved in a number of vital operations in a cell. When an organism has less TOR signaling in response to dietary restriction, one side effect is that the organism also decreases the rate at which it makes new proteins, a process called translation.
In this project, the UW scientists studied a number of different strains of yeast cells that had lower protein production. They observed that mutations to the ribosome, the cell's protein factory, sometimes led to increased life span. Ribosomes are made up of two parts -- the large and small subunits -- and the scientists tried to isolate the life-span-related mutation to one of those parts.........
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April 17, 2008, 8:09 PM CT
Ovarian cancer stem cells identified
Scientists at Yale School of Medicine have identified, characterized and cloned ovary cancer stem cells and have shown that these stem cells may be the source of ovary cancers recurrence and its resistance to chemotherapy.
These results bring us closer to more effective and targeted therapy for epithelial ovary cancer, one of the most lethal forms of cancer, said Gil Mor, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine.
Mor presented his findings recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Meeting in San Diego, California.
Malignant tumors are made up of cells that are both malignant and non-malignant. Within malignant cells, there is a further subclass referred to as cancer stem cells, which can replicate indefinitely.
Present chemotherapy modalities eliminate the bulk of the tumor cells, but cannot eliminate a core of these cancer stem cells that have a high capacity for renewal, said Mor, who is also a member of the Yale Cancer Center. Identification of these cells, as we have done here, is the first step in the development of therapeutic modalities.
Mor and his colleagues isolated cells from 80 human samples of either peritoneal fluid or solid tumors. The cancer stem cells that were identified were positive for traditional cancer stem cell markers including CD44 and MyD88. These cells also showed a high capacity for repair and self-renewal.........
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April 17, 2008, 7:47 PM CT
Drug compound leads to death of ovarian cancer cells
In a discovery that may be useful for maintaining remission in chemo-resistant ovary cancer, Yale researchers report that pre-clinical studies have shown the drug compound NV-128 can induce the death of ovary cancer cells by halting the activation of a protein pathway called mTOR.
Gil Mor, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine, and associate research scientist Ayesha Alvero, M.D. presented the data April 15 during an oral presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
In cancer cells, mTOR signals enhance tumor growth and may be linked to resistance to conventional therapies. Inhibition of mTOR could shut down a number of of these survival pathways, including proteins that protect the mitochondria of cancer cells.
NV-128, developed by Novogen Limited, holds promise as a more targeted treatment for ovary cancer because it works differently from traditional therapies that are dependent on enzymes known as caspases to trigger cell death. Therapies using caspases to kill cancer cells can be ineffective in chemo-resistant cancer cells due to mutations that short-circuit signals that trigger cancer cell death.
We consider that the capacity of NV-128 to trigger caspase-independent cell death, in otherwise chemoresistant ovary cancer cells, opens new possibilities for the use of NV-128 as a potential addition to conventional chemotherapy targeting ovary cancer cells, said Mor.........
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April 17, 2008, 7:45 PM CT
Parents stricter with older kids to set example
Parents are more likely to punish their teen's risky behavior when there are younger kids in the family, driven by a desire to set a strict example for these siblings, says new game theory research from the University of Maryland, Duke University and The Johns Hopkins University.
The research team used economic game theory to predict levels of parental discipline. Parental concern for their reputation as a disciplinarian with the younger children would be a powerful motivator, they predicted.
Their study, reported in the April edition of the Economic Journal, concludes that the exercise of parental control is effective in modifying the risky adolescent behavior.
This is particularly true in the case of the older children, who expect stronger penalties because their parents are making an example of them.
But as the younger siblings grow up and the games get played out a second or third time, the parents resolve tends to dwindle, the scientists say.
Tender-hearted parents find it harder and harder to engage in tough love as they have fewer young children in the house, since they have less incentive to uphold reputations as disciplinarians, says University of Maryland economist, Ginger Gin, one of three co-authors of the study, and herself an older sister and a parent of two. As a result, the theory predicts that last-born and only children, knowing that they can get away with much more than their older brothers and sisters, are, on average, more likely to engage in risky behaviors.........
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