June 6, 2007, 10:00 PM CT
Colonoscopy up in NYC
More New Yorkers are getting life-saving colonoscopies than ever before, the Health Department announced recently, and people of all races and incomes are benefiting. The test which can detect, prevent, or cure colorectal cancer is generally recommended once every decade for people 50 and older, and earlier for those with a family history of the disease. Four years ago, only 43% of New Yorkers age 50 and older had been screened during the prior decade. Health officials will announce today that 60% of New Yorkers 50 and older had a colonoscopy in the past ten years, an increase of some 350,000 tests compared with 2003. The announcement is being made at the 4th Annual Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5) summit at the American Conference Centers (780 Third Avenue, between 48th & 49th Streets).
In 2003, we set a five year goal to increase the percent of New Yorkers 50 and older who have been screened for colon cancer to 60%, said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Im proud to report that weve reached that goal two years ahead of schedule. Since 2003, colonoscopies increased among New Yorkers of all races, ethnicities, income level and insurance status. That means across the board more cancers will be prevented, and lives will be saved.
While whites were more likely than either blacks or Hispanics to have had a colonoscopy in 2003, the three groups screening rates were nearly equal in 2006, just four years later. More people are getting colonoscopies to prevent or find early colon cancer and it is saving lives, said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. The health gap for screening for this important cancer is closing. Weve accomplished a great deal, but we have more to do. We want to increase the colon cancer screening level to more than 80% of New Yorkers over 50 in the next 5 years.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:57 PM CT
Insights Into Anti-malarial Drug Resistance
Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center say they are moving closer to understanding why the most lethal form of human malaria has become resistant to drug therapy in the past three decades. They have been able to artificially construct, and then express in yeast, a protozoan gene that contributes to such resistance. And it was no small feat. The gene they laboriously constructed over a two-year period is thought to bethe largest "synthetic" one ever built, and it successfully produces large quantities of the encoded protein, whose function can now be easily studied.
In research reported in the May 22 issue of the journal Biochemistry, the scientists say that with the addition of the recreated gene, PfMDR1 and its protein, they have all the biomolecular tools necessary to molecularly understand how the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum), has become resistant to most of the drugs that could once destroy it. They have already described and expressed two other genes known to confer drug resistance.
"Now that we have these genes expressed in a convenient yeast system, we can work to understand the molecular basis of anti-malarial drug resistance, providing insight into how future drugs might be designed to effectively kill the parasite," said Paul Roepe, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular & Molecular Biology and the Department of Chemistry.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:54 PM CT
Organic Food Miles take toll on environment
Organic fruit and vegetables may be healthier for the dinner table, but not necessarily for the environment, a University of Alberta study shows.
The study, conducted by a team of student scientists in the Department of Rural Economy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, showed that the greenhouse gas emitted when the produce is transported from great distances mitigates the environmental benefits of growing the food organically.
If youre buying green, you should consider the distance the food travels. If its travelling further, then some of the benefits of organic crops are cancelled out by extra environmental costs, said researcher Vicki Burtt.
Burtt and her fellow scientists compared the cost of food miles between organic and conventionally grown produce, and observed that there was little difference in the cost to the environment.
Food miles are defined as the distance that food travels from the field to the grocery store. The study observed that the environmental cost of greenhouse gas (CO2) emitted to transport 20 tonnes of organically grown produce was comparable to that of bringing the same amount of conventional fruit and vegetables to market.
For the study, the team collected retail price data from six grocery stores and interviewed suppliers about their shipping methods. They created comparable food baskets of both organic and conventionally-grown fruit and vegetables being transported to Edmonton stores by truck, train or ship, and observed that most travels by truck. Since 1970 truck shipping has increased, replacing more energy-efficient rail and water transport.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:50 PM CT
Talcum powder stunts growth of lung tumors
Talcum powder has been used for generations to soothe babies diaper rash and freshen womens faces. But University of Florida scientists report the household product has an additional healing power: The ability to stunt cancer growth by cutting the flow of blood to metastatic lung tumors.
The study, reported in the European Respiratory Journal in April, reveals that talc stimulates healthy cells to produce endostatin, a hormone considered the magic bullet for treating metastatic lung cancer. The UF scientists say talc is an exciting new therapeutic agent for a cancer largely considered incurable.
We found, to our surprise, that talc causes tumor growth to slow down and actually decreases the tumor bulk, said Veena Antony, M.D., a professor of pulmonary medicine and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at UFs College of Medicine. Talc is able to prevent the formation of blood vessels, thereby killing the tumor and choking off its growth. The tumors appeared to grow much slower and in some cases completely disappeared.
Researchers have only recently discovered that talcum powder stunts tumor growth, though the mineral has been used for almost 70 years to treat the respiratory problems that accompany metastatic lung cancer. About half of all patients accumulate fluid around the surface of the lungs, a condition known as cancerous pleural effusion.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:29 PM CT
The Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
Scientists in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine have identified a new regulatory target for the Fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), laying the groundwork for possible new therapys for Fragile X syndrome(FXS), the leading inherited form of mental retardation.
The findings, reported in the early online edition of the June Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also have implications for autism, which shares a common physiological pathway with FXS.
Fragile X syndrome is mainly caused by a mutation in the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome, leading to the loss of FMRP, which is abundantly expressed in the brain and testes. Without this protein, brain development is hampered and nerve cells cannot communicate with each other appropriately, resulting in the reduced ability to learn and memorize. Fragile X syndrome affects about one in 4,000 males and one in 8,000 females. About 20 percent of children with FXS have autism and about five percent of autistic children have FXS.
The research team led by Yingqun Huang, M.D., assistant professor in Yale Ob/Gyn, previously observed that FMRP interacts with a nuclear mRNA export protein NXF2, in the mouse brain and testes. In this study, the team used mouse neuronal cells to explore the functional characteristics of this interaction.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:17 PM CT
New Bacterium That Cause Of Trench Fever
Jane Koehler, MD
A close cousin of the bacterium that debilitated thousands of World War I soldiers has been isolated at UCSF from a patient who had been on an international vacation. The woman, who has since recovered, suffered from symptoms similar to malaria or typhoid fever, two infections that can occur in returning travelers.
But genetic detective work revealed that she was infected with a new bacterium that had never before been isolated from a human.
A UCSF infectious disease team, in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions, observed that the new microbe is genetically similar to one spread by body lice in the trenches during World War I. That bacterium, called Bartonella quintana, caused a disease known as trench fever, and debilitated tens of thousands of soldiers with severe leg and back pain and recurrent fevers.
The new species, recently named Bartonella rochalimae, is also closely correlation to the bacterium identified about 10 years ago as the cause of cat scratch disease: Bartonella henselae, which infects more than 25,000 people a year in the U.S.
The discovery is published in the June 7 issue of The New England Journal (NEJM).
The woman had been traveling in the Peruvian Andes. She suffered from potentially life-threatening anemia, an enlarged spleen and a high fever for several weeks, as do victims of malaria and typhoid. The Andes are also home to another Bartonella species, spread by sand flies. The scientists first thought this was causing the patients infection.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:16 PM CT
Better Ways To Preserve Human Eggs And Ovarian Tissue
Three human eggs, donated to research because they were inadequate for fertilization, that have been vitrified then warmed.
Credit: Medical College of Georgia
The goal is to make human eggs, ovarian tissue, blood vessels, even whole organs available when needed.
To get there, scientists are directly comparing slow-freezing techniques, used successfully for decades to preserve sperm and embryos, to a more rapid method of cryopreservation that transforms tissues into durable glass-like structures.
Phase I trials under way at the Medical College of Georgia are comparing the two approaches in human ovarian tissue and eggs, or oocytes, as well as human-like cow ovarian tissue and eggs.
They start with reproductive tissues because young women with cancer produce a compelling need and are a good model for other tissues and organs.
What we tell patients is that right now the standard of care for people who are going through cancer treatment is to use egg donors later on, says Dr. Adelina M. Emmi, reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of MCG Reproductive Laboratories of Augusta.
Treatment for leukemia and cervical, ovarian, breast or other cancers often leaves women infertile because systemic chemotherapy and more focused radiation treatment, designed to kill rapidly spreading cancer cells, also can destroy dynamic reproductive tissue.
I dont think when you are faced with the reality that you may die, your fertility is the most important thing you are thinking or talking about, but there are a lot of women interested in talking about it, says Dr. Emmi. She hopes her work with Dr. Ying C. Song, cryobiologist, will one day give her more to say.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:13 PM CT
Clues to Working Memory
A newly discovered interplay of cells in one of the brain's memory centers sheds light on how you recall your grocery list, where you laid your keys, and a host of important but fleeting daily tasks.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College say their experiments with common goldfish are uncovering the secrets of a form of short-term recall known as "working memory".
"We've now identified a mechanism that can organize the activity of groups of cells involved in this important form of recall," says lead researcher Dr. Emre Aksay, assistant professor of computational neuroscience in the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
"Furthermore, because deficits in working memory are often a precursor of schizophrenia, drugs that target this mechanism might someday help fight that debilitating disease," he says.
The findings have been published in Nature Neuroscience.
Humans rely on their working memory every day to keep track of faces and names, tasks at school or in the workplace, and other important bits of information. "This process is distinct, neurologically speaking, from the storage and retrieval of longer-term memories," explains Dr. Aksay, who is also assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell.........
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June 6, 2007, 9:10 PM CT
Seniors' Plans For End-of-life Care
As a brain-damaged woman named Terri Schiavo lived her final days in 2005, her family's bitter feuding imparted a tragic lesson about the importance of specifying one's wishes for end-of-life medical therapy.
Yet, beyond headline-grabbing cases such as Schiavo's, what truly motivates people to plan for medical care at life's end" With record numbers of Americans - the Baby Boom generation - now reaching age 60, we still know surprisingly little about these decisions or the factors that shape them, says University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Deborah Carr.
A study by Carr and her Rutgers University colleague Dmitry Khodyakov now offers insight into a critical aspect of end-of-life planning: the choice to appoint a "health care proxy" who will make therapy decisions should a person become incapacitated. Writing in the recent issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the scientists report that education, religious attitudes and experience with a loved one's death - particularly a painful death - are all powerful influences on this decision.
The findings have important implications for policies and practices designed to encourage people to name a proxy, also known as a "durable power of attorney for health care" (DPAHC). Federal law currently mandates that patients entering a federally funded hospital or clinic be asked whether they have a DPAHC or a document called an advance directive. Medical personnel will also sometimes discuss the issue with patients; however, they tend to employ abstract arguments or ask patients to imagine their future state of health, says Carr.........
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June 5, 2007, 0:31 AM CT
Old memory traces in brain may trigger chronic pain
Why do so a number of people continue to suffer from life-altering, chronic pain long after their injuries have actually healed".
The definitive answer -- and an effective therapy -- has long eluded scientists. Traditional analgesic drugs, such as aspirin and morphine derivatives, havent worked very well.
A Northwestern University researcher has found a key source of chronic pain appears to be an old memory trace that essentially gets stuck in the prefrontal cortex, the site of emotion and learning. The brain seems to remember the injury as if it were fresh and cant forget it.
With new understanding of the pain source, Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology, and of anesthesiology, at Northwesterns Feinberg School of Medicine, has identified a drug that controls persistent nerve pain by targeting the part of the brain that experiences the emotional suffering of pain. The drug is D-Cycloserine, which has been used to treat phobic behavior over the past decade.
In animal studies, D-Cycloserine appeared to significantly diminish the emotional suffering from pain as well as reduce the sensitivity of the formerly injured site. It also controlled nerve pain resulting from chemotherapy, noted Apkarian, who is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.........
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