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August 20, 2008, 6:28 PM CT

How to stop a new type of heart attack

How to stop a new type of heart attack
PACEMAKERS are supposed to protect people from heart attacks. But to do that they have to provide digital as well as biological security.

Earlier this year, a team led by William Maisel at Harvard Medical School demonstrated how a commercial radio transmitter could be used to modify wireless communications from a pacemaker (New Scientist, 22 March, p 23). Doctors normally use these signals to monitor and adjust the implanted device, but a malicious hacker could reprogram the pacemaker to give its wearer damaging shocks, or run down its batteries.

Such irresponsible attacks might seem inconceivable, but Tamara Denning, a computer scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, points out that in 2007 hackers posted flashing images to the Epilepsy Foundation's website, apparently with the aim of triggering attacks in people with photosensitive epilepsy.

Pacemaker users could be similarly targeted, and there are a growing number of other implantable medical devices (IMDs) - such as drug pumps, neural stimulators, swallowable cameras and prosthetics - which could also be undermined by pranksters or even killers. Scientists like Denning believe it's worth being prepared. "We wanted to draw attention not to a prevalent threat, but to a possible future one," she says.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 20, 2008, 1:27 AM CT

Alcohol dependence linked to delayed childbearing

Alcohol dependence linked to delayed childbearing
Alcohol use during the teen years can not only lead to subsequent alcohol problems, it can also lead to risky sexual behavior and a greater risk of early childbearing. An examination of the relationship between a lifetime history of alcohol dependence (AD) and timing of first childbirth across reproductive development has observed that AD in women is linked to delayed reproduction.

Results would be reported in the recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Reproductive dysfunctions include a range of menstrual disorders, sexual dysfunctions, and pregnancy complications that include spontaneous abortion or miscarriage," explained Mary Waldron, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study. "Teenagers who drink tend to have disruptions in their menstrual cycle as well as unplanned pregnancies."

These complications may become more pronounced with time, added Sharon C. Wilsnack, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in the department of clinical neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences. "Higher rates of reproductive dysfunction in adult women may reflect the cumulative effects of longer exposure to alcohol for older women than for female adolescents," she said.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


August 20, 2008, 1:18 AM CT

79 million US adults have medical bill problems

79 million US adults have medical bill problems
The proportion of working-age Americans who have medical bill problems or who are paying off medical debt climbed from 34 percent to 41 percent between 2005 and 2007, bringing the total to 72 million, as per recent survey findings from The Commonwealth Fund. In addition, 7 million adults age 65 and over also had problems paying medical bills, for a total of 79 million adults with medical bill problems or medical debt.

In a new Commonwealth Fund report about the survey findings, Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance is Burdening Working Families, the authors describe how working-age adults are becoming more exposed to the rising costs of health care, either because they have lost insurance through their jobs or because they are paying more out of pocket for their health care. This combination of factors, along with sluggish growth in average family incomes, is contributing to problems with medical bills and cost-related delays in getting needed health care.

The report finds that in 2007, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults under age 65, or 116 million people, had medical bill problems or debt, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time, or were underinsuredinsured but had high out-of-pocket medical expenses or deductibles relative to income.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


August 18, 2008, 9:16 PM CT

How memory deals with a change in plans

How memory deals with a change in plans
You're about to leave work at the end of the day when your cell phone rings: it's your spouse, asking that you pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. Before you head out the door, though, your spouse calls again and asks you to stop by the hardware store too. Based on your knowledge of the area and rush-hour traffic, you decide to get the milk first and the toilet plunger second. But whoops! The phone rings again. This time, it's your boss, asking you to work late. That means another change of plans.

Adjusting our behavior to such changing circumstances enables us to achieve our goals. But how, exactly, do our brains switch so elegantly and quickly from one well-entrenched plan to a newer one in reaction to a sudden change in circumstances? In the milk-hardware-boss example, do we simply remember a list of streets and turns, or do we remember a more abstract set of "rules" governing the web of relationships between the items we want to buy, our driving route and our relationships with spouse and employer?.

The answer is "both," as per scientists at The Johns Hopkins University, who have learned that two different areas of the brain are responsible for the way human beings handle complex sets of "if-then" rules. The researchers, led by Susan Courtney, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, learned that rules that people must actively remember (in other words, which are not part of their everyday habits) are controlled primarily through the prefrontal cortex, which is in the very front of the brain, beneath the forehead.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 18, 2008, 8:58 PM CT

For Earlier Detection Of Autism

For Earlier Detection Of Autism
Top Row- Three views of brain MRI images with the extracted brain structures highlighted. Bottom Row- MRI image with extracted brain structures (bottom left), two different close-up views of extracted brain structures (bottom middle and bottom right).

Recently, Harvard scientists reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri scientists are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder. The scientists anticipate their work also will reveal genetic clues that can direct additional research. Autism is a brain disorder characterized by a complex of social, communication and behavioral difficulties.

"When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are in the process of developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder," said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering. "Once we have created a formula, we can pre-screen children by performing a quick, non-invasive scan of each child's face and brain to check for abnormalities. Early detection is crucial in treating children and preparing families".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


August 18, 2008, 8:55 PM CT

Oral contraceptives may ease suffering of women with severe PMS

Oral contraceptives may ease suffering of women with severe PMS
A new clinical trial at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using a popular low-dose contraceptive could uncover a more effective therapy for the 5 to 10 percent of women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

PMDD is much more severe than premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. The disorder interferes with a woman's ability to function effectively several days out of each month, every month. Physical symptoms include bloating, low energy, heart palpitations and joint or muscle pain. Far more disruptive emotional symptoms include irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, difficulty focusing and trouble sleeping. For a number of women with PMDD, five or more of these symptoms occur the week before menstruation starts and disappear a few days after the period begins.

The National Institute of Mental Health awarded UNC a $3 million grant for a five-year clinical trial using a low-dose contraceptive called YAZ (ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone). The trial is based on prior research by David Rubinow, M.D., the Asad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and chair of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine.

Rubinow discovered it is the change in not the level of reproductive hormones that triggers depression in women who are susceptible to PMDD. In other words, women with the disorder don't have abnormal levels of reproductive hormones, but are more sensitive to the shifts in them that occur previous to menstruation. That sensitivity triggers mood symptoms.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


August 18, 2008, 8:52 PM CT

Chemical Liberated by Leaky Gut

Chemical Liberated by Leaky Gut
BBB breakdown: The slide at left, above, shows a brain section of a control
(non-HIV-infected) mouse following exposure to LPS. Proteins (stained
yellow) lining the BBB exhibit some breaks but are relatively uncompromised.
Slide at right shows a brain section of a transgenic mouse (systemically
infected with HIV) following exposure to LPS. Here the combination of HIV
infection and LPS exposure has severely fragmented the
proteins lining the BBB.
In up to 20 percent of people infected with HIV, the virus manages to escape from the bloodstream and cross into the brain, resulting in HIV-associated dementia and other cognitive disorders. Now, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found good evidence that a component of the cell walls of intestinal bacteria - a chemical present in high levels in the blood of HIV-infected people - helps HIV to penetrate the usually-impregnable blood brain barrier (BBB). The findings, reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Virology, could lead to strategies for preventing HIV from entering the brain and causing serious complications.

"Prior research has suggested that it's not individual HIV viruses that get into the brain but rather HIV-infected immune cells known as monocytes," says Dr. Harris Goldstein, director of the Einstein-Montefiore Medical Center for AIDS Research and senior author of the study. "Using an animal model, we wanted to find out first of all whether being infected with HIV enables monocytes to do what they don't commonly do - escape from blood vessels and enter brain tissue".

Overcoming HIV's inability to infect mice, Dr. Goldstein and colleagues had previously created a transgenic mouse line, HIV-TG mice, equipped with all the genes needed to make HIV - and that produces HIV in those cells, including monocytes and T cells, in which the virus multiplies in people. The HIV-TG mice were then bred with another transgenic mouse line, GFP-TG mice, containing the gene that codes for green fluorescent protein (GFP). The result: a double transgenic mouse line, HIV/GFP-TG mice, whose HIV-infected monocytes carried the GFP gene. This meant that the monocytes could be detected - either by looking for glowing green cells under the microscope or by using polymerase chain reaction, a sensitive genetic assay capable of detecting the DNA of the GFP gene.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


August 13, 2008, 0:45 AM CT

In the long run, exertion regulation wins

In the long run, exertion regulation wins
Long-distance running is widely seen as one of the great physical challenges a human can undertake and as the 2008 Summer Olympics commence in Beijing on August 8, a number of eager sports fans will await with baited breath the last event of the Games the men's marathon, held on August 24. For these armchair fans, how marathon runners can complete the gruelling, 42.195 km event physically and mentally may seem like a great mystery.

Now, reporting in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, Jonathan Esteve-Lanao and Alejandro Lucia at the European University of Madrid and his colleagues at the VU University-Amsterdam and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse describe their investigation of the physiological methods employed by well-trained runners in order to regulate the great physical strain and effort that are needed in order to complete and perform well in marathons and other endurance challenges.

In order to measure the exercise intensity undergone by male runners of various abilities, Esteve-Lanao and his colleagues reviewed the heart rate response of 211 middle- and long-distance runners during running competitions ranging in length from five to 100 km. These runners were not elite performers but all were serious competitors and some had enjoyed success in regional competitions.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


August 13, 2008, 0:43 AM CT

Poor coordination in childhood is linked to obesity

Poor coordination in childhood is linked to obesity
Poor physical control and coordination in childhood are associated with an increased risk of obesity in later life, suggests a study published on BMJ.com today.

The research contributes to a growing body of evidence on the link between poorer cognitive function in childhood and obesity and type 2 diabetes in adults.

The findings are based on 11 042 individuals, who are part of the ongoing National Child Development Study in Great Britain, which began in 1958.

7990 participants were assessed by teachers at age 7 years to identify poor ability in hand control, coordination, and clumsiness, and 6875 were tested for hand control and coordination at age 11 by a doctor. Tests included copying a simple design to measure accuracy, marking squares on paper within a minute, and the time in seconds it took to pick up 20 matches.

At age 33 body mass index (BMI) was measured. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or over.

The analysis showed that at age 7 years poor hand control, poor coordination, and clumsiness occurred more often among individuals who would be obese adults. In addition, poorer function at age 11 was linked to obesity at age 33.

These findings held true after adjusting for factors likely to influence the results, such as childhood body mass and family social class.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


August 13, 2008, 0:39 AM CT

Targeted radiation therapy can control limited cancer spread

Targeted radiation therapy can control limited cancer spread
Precisely targeted radiation treatment can eradicate all evidence of disease in selected patients with cancer that has spread to only a few sites, suggests the first published report from an ongoing clinical trial.

In the August 15, 2008, issue of Clinical Cancer Research, (published online August 12) scientists from the University of Chicago Medical Center report that targeted radiation treatment had completely controlled all signs of cancer in 21 percent of patients who had five or fewer sites of metastatic disease.

"This was proof of principle in patients who had failed the standard therapies and had few, if any, remaining options," said the study's senior author, Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, professor and chairman of radiation and cellular oncology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "We had encouraging results, including several long-term survivors, in patients with stage-IV cancers that had spread to distant sites".

In 1994, Weichselbaum and colleague Samuel Hellman proposed that there was an intermediate state between cancer that had not spread at all and cancer that had spread extensively. They named this phenomenon "oligometastases," meaning cancer that had spread to a few distant sites.

In some cases, surgeons have successfully treated such limited cancer spread, producing long-term survival by removing the primary cancer and one or two distant tumors, off-shoots of the original cancer--commonly in the lung or liver. However, some patients are not fit for surgery or have cancer that is inoperable.........

Posted by: Janet      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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