April 24, 2008, 10:09 PM CT
New technology for boosting vaccine efficiency
One of the most pressing biomedical issues is the development of techniques that increase the efficiency of vaccines. In a paper published on April 24, 2008 in the journal Vaccine, a Massachusettss biotechnology company, Cure Lab, Inc. has proposed a new technology for anti-viral vaccination. This technology consists of two major elements. First, each vaccine antigen should be made in two forms. One is easily processed within the organisms cells by an intracellular chopping machine called the proteosome, while another is resistant to the chopping. Thus both these forms of an antigen would be used in combination to elicit a much stronger immune response than either of them would be able to do alone.
Imagine a vaccine that could make a cell within our body produce a viral protein. This is called a recombinant vaccine. Recombinant vaccines give the most hope today as anti-viral and anti-cancer vaccines. They train the immune system to recognize and eliminate first infected or malignant cells, preventing a disease progression. In order for a recombinant vaccine to be effective, the produced viral protein must be presented by the cell to our immune system. This antigen presentation process is very complex and remains poorly understood.
A few years ago the situation seemed to be simple- said Dr. Alex Shneider, Founder and CEO of Cure Lab, Inc. - Vaccinologists believed that a recombinant vaccine makes the cell able to produce a viral protein. The proteosome cuts this protein into pieces. These pieces are then presented on the cell surface and stimulate immunity. If this was the complete story, life-saving solutions would be so close. A lot of research groups rushed to enhance their vaccines by fusing different viral proteins used in vaccines with specific transport signals directing the proteins to the proteosome. The logic was pretty straightforward. The more protein that would be targeted to a proteosome, the more protein segments generated for presentation to the immune system. This would then result in an elevated immune response.........
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April 24, 2008, 5:11 AM CT
Heart derived stem cells develop into heart muscle
Dutch scientists at University Medical Center Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute have succeeded in growing large numbers of stem cells from adult human hearts into new heart muscle cells. A breakthrough in stem cell research. Until now, it was necessary to use embryonic stem cells to make this happen. The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cell Research.
The stem cells are derived from material left over from open-heart operations. Scientists at UMC Utrecht used a simple method to isolate the stem cells from this material and reproduce them in the laboratory, which they then allowed to develop. The cells grew into fully developed heart muscle cells that contract rhythmically, respond to electrical activity, and react to adrenaline.
Weve got complete control of this process, and thats unique, says principal investigator Prof. Pieter Doevendans. Were able to make heart muscle cells in unprecedented quantities, and on top of it theyre all the same. This is good news in terms of therapy, as well as for scientific research and testing of potentially new drugs.
Doevendans will use the cultured heart muscle cells to study things like cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms). Stem cells from the hearts of patients with genetic heart defects can be grown into heart muscle cells in the lab. Scientists can then study the cells responsible for the condition straight away. They can also be used to test new medicines. This could mean that research into genetic heart conditions can move forward at a much faster pace. In the future, new heart muscle cells can likely be used to repair heart tissue damaged during a heart attack.........
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April 24, 2008, 5:08 AM CT
Every fifth adolescent smokes
As a number of as 20% of adolescents from 11 to 17 years of age smoke. This was the result of the nationwide German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS), performed by the Robert Koch Institute and presented by the sociologist Thomas Lampert in the current edition of Deutsches rzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105: 265-71).
The analysis of tobacco consumption by children and adolescents covered almost 7,000 girls and boys aged 11 to 17. Data on the current smoking status and on exposure to passive smoking were collected for the years 2003 to 2006. Possible factors influencing the findings were examined, including the social status of the family, the type of school attended by the adolescents, and the smoking status of parents and friends.
Thomas Lampert's study shows that friends and the type of school have greater influence on smoking behavior than the parents do. The probability that an adolescent starts smoking is markedly greater when his or her friends smoke. The risk is hardly increased if the parents smoke. Conversely, students at general secondary schools (Hauptschule), intermediate schools (Realschule) or comprehensive schools (Gesamtschule) smoke much more frequently than do pupils at high school (Gymnasium).........
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April 24, 2008, 5:06 AM CT
Pregnancy is possible after cancer treatment
It has been reported for the first time in Gera number of that healthy ovarian tissue has been taken from a non-pregnant woman with cancer and then re-implanted after cancer treatment. The patient is now 32 years old and could become pregnant as a result. This case is described by Ralf Dittrich and colleagues from Erlangen University Hospital in the current issue of Deutsches rzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105: 274-8).
Anal carcinoma was diagnosed in this young patient in 2004 and chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy was recommended. As the ovaries lie near to the tumor, they are often damaged by treatment of this sort and the women become infertile. The Erlangen physicians succeeded in removing healthy ovarian tissue from the woman before therapy and to freeze it. The patient was then given the recommended cancer therapy. She tolerated this well and has not suffered any relapse. Conversely, her menstrual periods had stopped, in spite of hormone therapy, for two years. For this reason, the patient's conserved ovarian material was inserted endoscopically into her pelvis. She subsequently reported her first menstruation. After this operation, it may be possible for her to become pregnant, eventhough this has not happened yet.
The authors consider that the affected patients should be provided with more information, so that they are aware of this possibility of retaining fertility.........
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April 24, 2008, 5:04 AM CT
Advances In Breast Reconstruction
Lumpectomy or breast conservation surgery is the most common type of breast cancer surgery currently performed. A benefit of the surgery is that only part of the breast is removed, but a drawback can be the resulting physical appearance of the breast, which may be disfigured, dented or uneven. A report in April's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® , the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), examines advances plastic surgeons have made in breast reconstruction to repair the damage left when cancer is removed.
"Eventhough breast conversation therapies are a huge advance in the therapy of breast cancer, women are still concerned about how their breast will look after surgery," said Sumner Slavin, MD, ASPS Member and report co-author. "Breast conservation surgery or lumpectomy can mean a number of things; a biopsy, partial mastectomy, wedge resection, or having a quarter of the breast taken. Women are often left with portions of their breasts removed and there are currently no implants that can address this unique cosmetic issue".
After lumpectomy or breast conservation surgery, plastic surgeons are now approaching the challenge of misshapen breasts by immediately remodeling the breast with remaining breast tissue or tissue taken from another area of the body. The result is a more natural looking breast that is more symmetrical with the unaffected breast.........
Posted by: Janet Read more Source
April 24, 2008, 5:02 AM CT
Environment influences when drinking begins
The influence of genetics increases as young women transition from taking their first drink to becoming alcoholics. A team of scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis observed that eventhough environment is most influential in determining when girls begin to drink, genes play a larger role if they advance to problem drinking and alcohol dependence.
The scientists studied 3,546 female twins ages 18 to 29 to ferret out the influences of genes and environment in the development of alcohol dependence. Their findings are reported in the recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The road to alcohol dependence involves transitions through a number of stages of drinking behaviors: from the first drink to the first alcohol-related problems (such as drinking and driving, difficulty at school or work correlation to alcohol use) to alcohol dependence.
Environmental factors the twins shared, such as exposure to conflict between parents or alcohol use among peers in school, exerted the largest influence on initiation of alcohol use. The study observed that females who had their first drink at an earlier age were more likely to develop serious alcohol problems. The scientists observed that all transitions were attributable in part to genetic factors, increasing from 30 percent for the timing of first drink to 47 percent for the speed at which women progressed from problem drinking to alcohol dependence. But genetics did not explain everything.........
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April 22, 2008, 9:40 PM CT
Protein that helps predict prostate cancer survival
An Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute researcher has identified a protein that is a strong indicator of survival for men with advanced prostate cancer. The C-reactive protein, also known as CRP, is a special type of protein produced by the liver that is elevated in the presence of inflammation.
"This could mean that a simple blood test that is already available could help in clinical decision making and patient counseling. Patients and doctors would know better what to expect from the prostate cancer they are facing," said Tomasz Beer, M.D., director of the Prostate Cancer Research Program at the OHSU Cancer Institute, associate professor of medicine (hematology/medical oncology), OHSU School of Medicine.
Beer's research will be published online in the journal Cancer on Monday, April 21.
Past research has shown that cancer causes an inflammatory response. This research also suggests that inflammation may play an important role in driving prostate cancer progression and resistance to treatment. Inflammatory cells are attracted to cancer sites and this local inflammation can lead to a release of inflammatory markers, like CRP.
"While inflammation may sometimes slow the progression of the cancer, an increasing body of evidence suggests that cancer can actually take advantage of the inflammatory response, and the reaction of the immune system may fuel cancer progression. To the extent that our hypothesis proves true, C-reactive protein may be reflecting the overall intensity of the inflammation," Beer said.........
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April 22, 2008, 9:27 PM CT
Low grades, bad behavior? Siblings may be to blame
We all know the story of a man named Brady and the group that somehow formed a family. But if the iconic 70s sitcom about a blended family reflected reality, the Brady Bunch likely would have been dealing with much more than silly sibling squabbles.
Heres the real story: On average, adolescents living with half- or stepsiblings have lower grades and more school-related behavior problems, and these problems may not improve over time, as per Florida State University Assistant Professor of Sociology Kathryn Harker Tillman.
These findings imply that family formation patterns that bring together children who have different sets of biological parents may not be in the best interests of the children involved, Tillman said. Yet one-half of all American stepfamilies include children from prior relationships of both partners, and the majority of parents in stepfamilies go on to have additional children together.
A number of studies have focused on the structure of parent-child relations in connection to academic achievement, but Tillmans study is unique in that it focuses on the composition of the entire family unit. Tillman studied data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative study of more than 11,000 adolescents in grades 7 through 12 in the United States. Her study is reported in the journal Social Science Research.........
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April 22, 2008, 9:19 PM CT
Ozone Air Pollution and Premature Death
Short-term exposure to current levels of ozone in a number of areas is likely to contribute to premature deaths, says a new National Research Council report, which adds that the evidence is strong enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should include ozone-related mortality in health-benefit analyses correlation to future ozone standards. The committee that wrote the report was not asked to consider how evidence has been used by EPA to set ozone standards, including the new public health standard set by the agency last month.
Ozone, a key component of smog, can cause respiratory problems and other health effects. In addition, evidence of a relationship between short-term -- less than 24 hours -- exposure to ozone and mortality has been mounting, but interpretations of the evidence have differed, prompting EPA to request the Research Council report. In particular, the agency asked the committee to analyze the ozone-mortality link and assess methods for assigning a monetary value to lives saved for the health-benefits assessments.
Based on a review of recent research, the committee observed that deaths correlation to ozone exposure are more likely among individuals with pre-existing diseases and other factors that could increase their susceptibility. However, premature deaths are not limited to people who are already within a few days of dying.........
Posted by: Janet Read more Source
April 21, 2008, 9:07 PM CT
Coke or Pepsi?
A can of Coke next to the word awesome; a can of Pepsi next to a picture of a happy couple. Seem too basic to be effective advertising" Previous research has shown that reported attitudes towards brands are not affected by such simple juxtapositions. However, a new paper in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research examines our implicit opinions and finds that we may actually be more susceptible than we think.
Bryan Gibson (Central Michigan University) showed undergraduate psychology students pairings of well-known cola brands with words and images. Some had positive associations: a field of flowers, the word awesome, or a mother holding a child. Others had negative associations: people at a gravesite, the word terrifying, or a person in a contamination suit.
Participants were then distracted by an unrelated cognitive task memorizing an eight-digit number and offered a can of Coke or Pepsi to take home with them.
When distracted, those who were initially neutral towards both brands strongly tended to choose the brand that had been paired with positive images or words in the earlier task. Importantly, this happened even when the participant couldnt remember which brand had been paired with positive information, Gibson reports.
Those who had an established preference for one brand before the experiment, as established by a pre-test, were not affected by the inclusion of a distracting task while making their choices.........
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