February 20, 2007, 7:58 PM CT
Newborns with respiratory distress
Newborns with respiratory distress should be reviewed for primary ciliary dyskinesia, a rare genetic disease that has features similar to cystic fibrosis, says Thomas Ferkol, M.D., from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He reports finding that about 80 percent of patients with primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) have a history of newborn respiratory distress.
"The diagnosis of PCD requires a high index of suspicion, but PCD must be considered in any term newborn who develops respiratory distress or persistent hypoxemia (low oxygen in the blood), particularly those who have reversed internal organs or an affected sibling," says Ferkol, director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Reviewing published reports, Ferkol and Margaret Leigh, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), observed that neonatal respiratory distress was a common clinical symptom of PCD, a chronic airway disease that affects about 1 in 15,000 children. Their findings appeared in the recent issue of Seminars in Perinatology.
Also known as immotile cilia syndrome, ciliary aplasia or Kartagener Syndrome, PCD causes persistent wheezing and cough in children and is linked to recurrent or persistent sinus and ear infections. Half of patients with PCD have reversed internal organs, called situs inversus, and males are commonly infertile.........
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February 20, 2007, 7:54 PM CT
Mental And Physical Health Of Caregivers
Having positive cultural beliefs about caring for elders and strong religious beliefs can ward off depression and other mental health difficulties for female caregivers of spouses and parents with dementia, but sustained elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, puts these women at risk for physical health problems, as per a research studyreported in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychology.
"Caregiving for someone with dementia is stressful for almost everyone and can negatively influence mental and physical health," said T. J. McCallum, assistant professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University.
Since stress is common in caregiving, McCallum, along with Kristen H. Sorocco from the University of Oklahoma's Health Sciences Center, and Thomas Fritsch, formerly of Case's University Memory and Aging Center (who is now at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee), set out to study how different cultural and religious beliefs in different ethnic groups impact the overall health of the caregivers.
In a pilot study, the scientists studied 54 caregivers (30 African Americans and 24 European Americans) and compared their mental health and cortisol levels with 64 non caregivers (48 African Americans and 15 European Americans). The participants were closely matched for their income levels, college education and length of time caring for their family members (less than five years). Each caregiving group spent a similar amount of time bathing, dressing, preparing food and other activities to care for their loved ones.........
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February 20, 2007, 7:51 PM CT
Chemotherapy Drug Packs A One-two Punch
Cancer can be wily, and those who treat the disease have amassed a wide array of weapons with which to fight it and kill tumors. Radiation treatment and various forms of chemotherapy were all believed to be separate but equal therapys. Now, however, new research is beginning to show that it's not just killing the cancer cells that matter. How they're killed may turn out to be just as important and could play a role in marshalling the body's immune response.
New research by Rockefeller University associate professor Madhav Dhodapkar, head of the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy, shows that one form of chemotherapy - a drug called bortezomib - kills tumor cells in such a way that it may allow the immune system to recognize them. In a first edition paper published online this week by the journal Blood, Dhodapkar, postdoctoral fellow Radek Spisek, and their colleagues show that unlike radiation or other chemical therapies, bortezomib can kill multiple myeloma cells in culture in such a way that it elicits a response by memory and killer T cells. The results suggest the drug has the potential to enhance patients' immunity to tumors, helping their bodies fight the disease more effectively.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of immune cells in the bone marrow. Dhodapkar's experiments show that when treated with bortezomib in tissue culture, multiple myeloma cells die in such a way that a heat shock protein, called hsp90, migrate to their surface. When another group of immune cells, called dendritic cells, encounter hsp90 on the dying tumor cells, the protein acts as a signal for their activation. The dendritic cells then ingest them for presentation to memory and killer T cells, a progression that - in humans - could potentially lead to enhanced immunity. "If you could directly target the drug to these cells," Dhodapkar says, "it may be sufficient enough to create a vaccine. The exposure of heat shock proteins on dying cells represents an immunogenic form of cell death."........
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February 20, 2007, 7:47 PM CT
Test Identifies Lymphoma Patients Likely to Respond
Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a genetic signature identifying cases of lymphoma that are uniquely susceptible to a newly developed molecular targeted treatment. As a result, physicians organizing clinical trials of the new treatment will be able to enroll patients who'll be most likely to benefit from it.
The research was led by Dr. Ari Melnick, assistant professor of developmental & molecular biology and medicine at Einstein, who also developed the new lymphoma treatment. The study appears in the February 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Each year more than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with B cell lymphomas-tumors of cells of the immune system that include Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. B cells are the immune-system cells that make antibodies. Genetic aberrations can cause B cells to multiply uncontrollably, causing B cell lymphomas.
Dr. Melnick's study focused on a gene called BCL6. The protein it codes for is a transcriptional repressor, which means that it can shut off the functioning of genes in B cells and other cells of the immune system and prevent them from being expressed. The BCL6 protein is normally produced only during a specific stage of B cell development and is never made again. But deregulation of BCL6 can cause the protein to be produced when it shouldn't be. The unwelcome presence of the BCL6 protein blocks the expression of important genes that normally protect cells from becoming malignant. As a result, cancerous B-cell lymphomas occur.........
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February 19, 2007, 9:05 PM CT
New test for most virulent HPV strains
A test for the two strains of human papillomavirus responsible for most cervical cancers is under study.
The molecular assay uses a cervical scraping, like that for a liquid-based Pap smear, to test for HPV types 16 and 18, responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers, says Dr. Daron G. Ferris, family medicine doctor and director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Center at the Medical College of Georgia.
"Data from a National Cancer Institute trial shows that if you have a genital infection with HPV types 16 or 18, your chance of getting moderate to severe premalignant cervical changes or cancer is much higher than if you have one of the other types," says Dr. Ferris, a principal investigator on the national study evaluating the assay.
The NCI study followed women infected with different types of the typically slow-acting virus over 10 years. It found women infected with type 18 had a 15 percent risk of malignant or pre-malignant changes after 10 years, those with type 16 had a 20 percent increased risk while those with the 11 other strains had a collective risk of 1-2 percent.
"Clearly, there is a big difference between HPV types 16 and 18 and all the other cancer-causing strains of HPV," says Dr. Ferris.
The type-specific assay, developed by Third Wave Technologies, Inc., in Madison, Wis., is being tested along with an assay that looks for the presence of 14 types of cancer-causing HPV. A test that detects 13 types of HPV already is commercially available, so the new test could become the second non-type-specific HPV test on the market.........
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February 19, 2007, 8:33 PM CT
Sometimes People Can Be Trusted
Multitier Framework for Analyzing Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems.
Government ownership is not always the best way to protect natural resources, said Elinor Ostrom, director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.
In a presentation given on Saturday (Feb. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she described a diagnostic framework to help policymakers develop sustainability plans for each unique resource. Contradicting the standard approach to environmental protection, the Multi-tier Framework for Analyzing Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems relies on her conviction that "most people can be trusted if the institutions enhance trust."
The framework, pictured in this release, demonstrates how different characteristics of a social-ecological system influence one another. Each of these broad categories contains several variables, which can in turn be further broken down.
During the past several years, Ostrom's research has focused on testing the framework by mapping different social-ecological situations using these universal components. She is now working to identify the crucial characteristics that can determine which type of solution is indicated for the particular resource system. Solutions might range from grassroots governance in certain circumstances to government regulation or a private property system in others, she said.........
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February 19, 2007, 8:11 PM CT
Those Who Once Were Blind Can Learn To See
Pawan Sinha, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and the senior author on a paper.
How does the human brain "learn" to see? If the brain is deprived of visual input early in life, can it later learn to see at all?
MIT scientists are exploring those questions by studying some unique patients--people who were born blind, or blinded very young, and later had their sight restored.
Doctors have long believed that children who were blind during a "critical period" early in life had little hope of learning how to see even if vision were later restored, so they were reluctant to offer potentially risky surgical therapys such as cataract removal to children older than 5 or 6.
However, in a recent case study, the MIT scientists observed that a woman who had her vision restored at the age of 12 performed almost normally on a battery of high-level vision tests when they studied her at the age of 32. The study appears in the recent issue of Psychological Science.
The new research "shows that the brain is still malleable" in older children, says Pawan Sinha, senior author and associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. This knowledge could benefit thousands of blind children around the world, especially in developing nations, who were previously believed to be too old to receive eye therapy.
The MIT scientists found their case study subject in India, where childhood blindness is a huge problem, and where Sinha recently launched a humanitarian initiative, Project Prakash, to help expand the reach of eye care facilities.........
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February 19, 2007, 8:07 PM CT
HIV protein to kill cancer cells
Hawkins and colleagues have linked anticancer agents to a PET tracer substance to deliver the treatment directly to tumors in mice (red and yellow color shows highest amounts of tracer).
Cancer cells are sick, but they keep growing because they don't react to internal signals urging them to die. Now scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found an efficient way to get a messenger into cancer cells that forces them to respond to death signals. And they did it using one of the most sinister pathogens around - HIV.
"HIV knows how to insert itself into a number of different types of cells," says senior author William G. Hawkins, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and a member of the Siteman Cancer Center at the School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "A portion of the HIV protein called TAT can transport biologically active compounds into cells. TAT is small, but it can move massive molecules. You could almost hook TAT up to a train, and TAT would drag it inside a cell. So we've taken advantage of this ability."
In an article published online in January 2007 in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, the scientists describe using TAT to pull a protein called Bim into cancer cells. TAT alone cannot cause AIDS and has no adverse health effects. Bim acts as a tumor suppressor and causes cancer cells to die through apoptosis, a process by which cells "commit suicide."
The research team observed that the TAT-Bim compound activated apoptosis mechanisms in cancer cells and augmented the cell-killing effect of radiation. When mice with cancerous tumors were treated with TAT-Bim, their tumors shrank, and they survived longer than mice that didn't get the therapy. After 40 days, 80 percent of mice receiving TAT-Bim were alive in comparison to 20 percent of mice that didn't get the therapy.........
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February 15, 2007, 7:11 AM CT
Alzheimers Research Initiated At UCSB
Michael Bowers, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, developed this project, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health. Bowerss laboratory will receive $1.3 million of the total $9 million project grant, plus biological samples worth an additional $500,000. The grant covers a five-year period. Four institutions are involved.
Bowers is using specialized chemical research methods and applying them to biology. His research will depend upon the study of rare peptides, or strings of amino acids, that are difficult to produce. These will be provided by co-investigator David Teplow, a professor at UCLAs David Geffen School of Medicine, who has been involved in Alzheimers research for over 10 years. Joan-Emma Shea, also a professor in UCSBs Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, heads the theoretical modeling aspect of the project.
Until about five or six years ago, everyone assumed that the large amyloid plaques, or neurofibrillary tangles, that were found in the brains of Alzheimers victims were the cause of the disease, said Bowers. However, recent scientific discoveries indicate that these large, insoluble aggregates might merely be markers of the disease they do not cause the disease. Rather, smaller soluble oligomers, or peptide complexes, are now felt to be the causative agents, and I find that very interesting.........
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February 15, 2007, 6:28 AM CT
Low-pitch Treatment For Tinnitus
For those who pumped up the volume one too a number of times, UC Irvine scientists may have found a therapy for the hearing damage loud music can cause.
Fan-Gang Zeng and his colleagues have identified an effective way to treat the symptoms of tinnitus, a form of hearing damage typically marked by high-pitched ringing that torments more than 60 million Americans. A low-pitched sound, the scientists discovered, applied by a simple MP3 player suppressed and provided temporary relief from the high-pitch ringing tone linked to the disorder.
Tinnitus is caused by injury, infection or the repeated bombast of loud sound, and can appear in one or both ears. It's no coincidence that a number of rock musicians, and their fans, suffer from it. Eventhough known for its high-pitched ringing, tinnitus is an internal noise that varies in its pitch and frequency. Some therapys exist, but none are consistently effective.
Zeng presented his study Feb. 13 at the Middle Winter Research Conference for Otolaryngology in Denver.
"Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing disorders in the world, but very little is understood about why it occurs or how to treat it," said Zeng, a professor of otolaryngology, biomedical engineering, cognitive sciences, and anatomy and neurobiology. "We are very pleased and surprised by the success of this treatment, and hopefully with further testing it will provide needed relief to the millions who suffer from tinnitus".........
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