October 30, 2007, 10:09 PM CT
Brain marker for predicting Alzheimer's disease
Duke University Medical Center scientists have used imaging technology to identify a new marker that may help identify those at greatest risk for cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The study focused on people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that affects an estimated four to five million individuals in the United States. People with MCI are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease in the future and approximately 30-50 percent of MCI subjects will develop Alzheimer's if followed over a three- to five-year period.
Duke scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging, also known as fMRI, on people with MCI to track regions of the brain that become active or inactive when participating in tasks that involve memory. They then followed these individuals over time to document progression to Alzheimer's.
"A single baseline fMRI measure of deactivation could help predict which individuals will convert to Alzheimer's over the next several years," said the study's lead author, Jeffrey R. Petrella, M.D. "Conversely, the fMRI scans of MCI subjects who did not convert looked more like those of healthy normal people, and could therefore be reassuring," said Petrella, who is director of the Alzheimer's Imaging Research Laboratory and associate professor of radiology at Duke.........
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October 30, 2007, 10:06 PM CT
Chemical that Triggers Parkinson's Disease
Scientists at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine have discovered the key brain chemical that causes Parkinson's disease - a breakthrough finding that could pave the way for new, far more effective therapies to treat one of the most common and debilitating neurological disorders.
Currently, the main approach for treating Parkinson's disease, which afflicts more than 1.5 million Americans, is to replace dopamine that's lost when the cells that produce it die off and cause the disorder. With this new research, however, researchers can better work toward 'neuroprotective' therapies - those that actually block dopamine cells from dying off in the first place.
"We believe this work represents a very significant breakthrough in understanding the complicated chemical process that results in Parkinson's disease," said William J. Burke, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the study's lead author.
"For the first time, we've identified the chemical that triggers the events in the brain that cause this disorder," Burke added. "We believe these findings can be used to develop therapies that can actually stop or slow this process".
The scientists' findings appear in an early online edition of the journal Acta Neuropathologica.........
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October 30, 2007, 9:51 PM CT
Technology For Early Detection Of Viruses
Edward Yeung, an Iowa State Distinguished Professor and the Robert Allen Wright Chair in Chemistry at Iowa State and senior chemist and deputy program director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory
Iowa State University scientists have developed a technology that detects a single molecule of the virus linked to cervical cancer in women.
That's a significant improvement over the current test for the human papillomavirus, said Edward Yeung, an Iowa State Distinguished Professor and the Robert Allen Wright Chair in Chemistry who led the research team that developed the new test. The current test, the Nobel Prize-winning polymerase chain reaction technique, requires 10 to 50 virus molecules for detection.
"We are always interested in detecting smaller and smaller amounts of material at lower and lower concentrations," Yeung said. "Detecting lower levels means earlier diagnosis".
The discovery by Yeung, who's also a senior chemist and deputy program director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory at Iowa State; Jiangwei Li, an Iowa State doctoral student; and Ji-Young Lee, a former Iowa State doctoral student; would be reported in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Their work was funded by a five-year, $950,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health with additional support from The Robert Allen Wright Endowment for Excellence at Iowa State.
The project advanced just as human papillomavirus made national headlines. In June of 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer, premalignant lesions and genital warts caused by four types of the virus. The vaccine has been approved for females ages 9 to 26.........
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October 29, 2007, 10:33 PM CT
Can statins make radiation more effective?
Prostate cancer patients who receive high-dose radiation therapy and also take statin drugs usually used to lower cholesterol have a 10 percent higher chance of being cured of their cancer at 10 years after diagnosis (76 percent), in comparison to those who dont take these medications (66 percent), as per a research studypresented at a scientific session October 31, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
The study demonstrated that the greatest benefit of statin medications was observed in patients who had more aggressive or advanced forms of prostate cancer. The research also showed that men who took statins during high-dose radiation treatment had a lower rate of the cancer spreading to distant parts of the body.
We were, indeed, surprised by the findings that statins used by these patients for other conditions was shown to improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy in killing prostate cancer cells, said Michael J. Zelefsky, M.D., the senior author of the study and a radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The use of statins during radiation may also be effective in the therapy of other types of cancer. However, more studies are necessary to explore the association between statins and radiation therapy in curing cancers.........
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October 29, 2007, 10:28 PM CT
New cements to heal spinal fractures
Engineer Dr. Ruth Wilcox, University of Leeds.
Credit: Simon & Simon photography
New research could offer hope for victims of the most devastating spinal injuries - typically those caused in car crashes.
Biological cements to repair burst fractures of the spine are being developed and tested in a major new collaborative project between the University of Leeds and Queens University Belfast. The team has been awarded just under 500,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop and examine the effects of novel cement materials for the therapy of burst fractures.
Bone cements, similar to those used in joint replacement surgery, are already being used to strengthen damaged vertebrae of patients with diseases such as osteoporosis, in a procedure known as vertebroplasty, but burst fractures to the spine, injuries often sustained in major impact accidents and falls, are much more difficult to treat. They account for over 1,000 emergency NHS admissions each year and often require highly complex, invasive surgery and a long stay in hospital.
This type of fracture causes the vertebra to burst apart and in severe cases fragments of bone can be pushed into the spinal cord, says Dr Ruth Wilcox of Leeds Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Surgeons may be able to join bone fragments together and stabilize the spine with the use of metal screws and rods, but patients with these injuries are often in a really bad way, so the less invasive the therapy, the better.........
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October 29, 2007, 10:18 PM CT
Radiation seeds effectively cure prostate cancer
Radiation seed implants (brachytherapy) are just as effective at curing prostate cancer in younger men (aged 60 and younger) as they are in older men, as per a research studypresented at a scientific session on October 31, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncologys 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure where a radiation oncologist places small radioactive seeds into the prostate in order to kill the cancer cells. It is an attractive therapy option for prostate cancer patients because it has a much shorter recovery time than surgery and studies have shown brachytherapy to be just as effective as surgery. However, surgeons have commonly advised younger men to undergo surgery to remove all or part of the prostate (prostatectomy) over other therapys like seed implants because they believed younger men could physically tolerate surgery, plus they believed surgery was more effective than brachytherapy at curing prostate cancer long term. This meant that a number of younger men would undergo surgery without ever learning about other therapy options, like brachytherapy or external beam radiation treatment.
These results suggest that brachytherapy is extremely effective in curing localized prostate cancer for men aged 60 and younger. When younger men are diagnosed with localized prostate cancer, they should be presented with all viable therapy options, including brachytherapy, said Alice Ho, M.D., the lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Every man with prostate cancer, regardless of his age, should have access to the therapy that is best for his cancer and lifestyle.........
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October 29, 2007, 10:16 PM CT
Smoking increases risk of psoriasis
Another disease can be added to the list of smoking-related disorders -- psoriasis. Scientists have observed that smoking increases the risk of developing psoriasis, heavier smoking increases the risk further, and the risk decreases only slowly after quitting. Investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Harvard School of Public Health, all in Boston, USA, and Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada, have published the results in the November 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
This study is the largest prospective assessment of multiple markers of smoking status, duration, and intensity in relation to the risk of psoriasis. Using data from the Nurses Health Study II (NHS II), an ongoing longitudinal study of 116,608 female registered nurses from 15 states between the ages of 25 and 42 years at baseline who completed and returned an initial questionnaire in 1989, the scientists documented 887 incident cases of psoriasis during the 14 years of follow-up. Lifetime smoking exposure was measured in pack-years, equal to smoking 20 cigarettes per day for one year.
Compared with women who never smoked, the risk of psoriasis was 37% higher among past smokers and 78% higher among current smokers. Pack-years were linked to a graded increase in the risk for psoriasis. Compared with never smokers; the risk was 20% higher for 1-10 pack-years, 60% higher for 11-20 pack-years, and more than two times higher for +21 pack-years. The significant trends persisted with smoking duration in both current and past smokers. Furthermore, exposure to passive smoke during pregnancy or childhood was linked to an increased risk of psoriasis. The risk of psoriasis among former smokers decreases nearly to that of never smokers 20 years after cessation.........
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October 29, 2007, 10:10 PM CT
Ethnic Differences in Sleep Quality and Blood Pressure
In the United States, African Americans have higher blood pressure and are at greater risk of high blood pressure than whites. In addition, African Americans report poorer sleep quality and exhibit a smaller nighttime decrease in blood pressure than whites, a phenomenon called blood pressure "dipping".
"This ethnic difference in blood pressure dipping may help explain why African Americans are at greater risk of hypertension," says Dr. Joel Hughes, Kent State assistant professor of psychology, "as a smaller dip in nighttime blood pressure has been linked to increased left ventricular mass and wall thickness in the heart".
In this month's issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, Hughes and colleagues examine the possibility that sleep quality may help account for ethnic differences in blood pressure dipping. They observed that African-American college students, in comparison to whites, spent less time in bed, slept for a shorter period of time and took longer to fall asleep. Thus, ethnic differences in sleep quality seemed to accompany ethnic differences in blood pressure dipping; however, it was not shown that these differences in sleep quality caused ethnic differences in nighttime blood pressure.
"Obviously, more studies are needed," says Hughes. "There are too few studies of ethnic differences in sleep, and the importance of sleep for health is becoming increasingly recognized".........
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October 29, 2007, 9:48 PM CT
What's the brain got to do with education?
Quite a lot - as per teachers in a recent survey commissioned by The Innovation Unit and carried out by scientists at the University of Bristol. Eventhough current teacher training programmes generally omit the science of how we learn, an overwhelming number of the teachers surveyed felt neuroscience could make an important contribution in key educational areas. The research was undertaken to inform a series of seminars between educationalists and neuroresearchers organised by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Dr Sue Pickering and Dr Paul Howard-Jones, at Bristol University's Graduate School of Education, asked teachers and other education professionals whether they thought it was important to consider the workings of the brain in educational practice. Around 87 per cent of respondents felt it was. Teachers considered both mainstream and special educational teaching could benefit from the neuroscientific insights emerging from modern scanning techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The scientists also investigated where teachers got their knowledge about neuroscience from and what impact, if any, it was having on their classroom practice. Some teachers already use so-called 'brain-based''teaching methods in their classrooms. These include initiatives such as Brain Gym and methods intended to appeal to different brain-based learning styles (e.g. visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning - or VAK). Eventhough the scientific basis of these methods is highly contentious, a number of teachers said they had found them very useful, especially when children were less receptive to more traditional teaching methods. One respondent said such approaches "improved the success of the teaching and learning" and led to "happier children who are more engaged in the activities".........
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October 29, 2007, 7:42 PM CT
Ten minutes of talking has a mental payoff
Spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and your performance on tests, as per a University of Michigan study would be reported in the February 2008 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"In our study, socializing was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance," said Oscar Ybarra, a psychology expert at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and a lead author of the study with ISR psychology expert Eugene Burnstein and psychology expert Piotr Winkielman from the University of California, San Diego.
In the article, Ybarra, Burnstein and his colleagues report on findings from two types of studies they conducted on the relationship between social interactions and mental functioning.
Their research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
In one study, they examined ISR survey data to see whether there was a relationship between mental functioning and specific measures of social interaction. The survey data included information on a national, stratified area probability sample of 3,610 people between the ages of 24 and 96. Their mental function was assessed through the mini-mental exam, a widely used test that measures knowledge of personal information and current events and that also includes a simple test of working memory.........
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