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December 15, 2005

Immunosuppressive Drug Effective In MS

Immunosuppressive Drug Effective In MS
A medicine that reduces relapse rates in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) appears to be effective in reducing new brain inflammatory lesions and is well tolerated, as per a studyin the recent issue of the Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The drug is azathioprine, an immunosuppressive agent that is well tolerated, easy to administer and monitor, and has been used for a number of years in the therapy of transplant rejections and autoimmune diseases. Azathioprine reduces relapse rates in MS patients, but its effects on the frequency and accumulation of new brain inflammatory lesions has not been studied in MS, according to background information in the article. MS is a disease of the central nervous system, marked by numbness, weakness, loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control.

Luca Massacesi, M.D., and his colleagues at the University of Florence, Italy, conducted an open-label therapy study to evaluate the effect of azathioprine treatment on new brain lesion suppression in MS. They used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate brain lesions of 14 patients with relapse-remitting MS (RRMS) of short duration. RRMS is a form of the disease characterized by relapses, when new symptoms can appear and old ones resurface or worsen, followed by periods of remission, when the person fully or partially recovers from the deficits acquired during the relapse. The patients were evaluated for six months before and six months during therapy with azathioprine, and new lesions were evaluated during the same periods and after an additional six months.

"The results of this study show, for the first time, that the immunosuppressive agent azathioprine suppresses new brain lesions evaluated using MRI in patients with RRMS," the authors report.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 15, 2005

E. Coli Bacterium Generates Simplicity From Complexity

E. Coli Bacterium Generates Simplicity From Complexity
The ubiquitous and commonly harmless E. coli bacterium, which has one-seventh the number of genes as a human, has more than 1,000 of them involved in metabolism and metabolic regulation. Activation of random combinations of these genes would theoretically be capable of generating a huge variety of internal states; however, scientists at UCSD will report in the Dec. 27 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that Escherichia coli doesn't gamble with its metabolism. In a surprise about E. coli that may offer clues about how human cells operate, the PNAS paper reports that only a handful of dominant metabolic states are found in E. coli when it is "grown" in 15,580 different environments in computer simulations.

"When it comes to genomes, a great deal of complexity boils down to just a few simple themes," said Bernhard Palsson, a professor of bioengineering at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering and co-author of the study, which was made available online Dec. 15. "Scientists have confirmed the complexity of individual parts of biochemical networks in E. coli and other model organisms, but our large-scale reconstruction of regulatory and metabolic networks involving hundreds of these parts has shown that all this genetic complexity yields surprisingly few physiological functions. This is possibly a general principal in a number of, if not all, species."

Palsson and colleagues at UCSD, postdoctoral fellows Christian L. Barrett and Christopher D. Herring, and Ph.D. candidate Jennifer L. Reed, created a computer model of an E. coli cell based on the experimental results of thousands of prior experiments, some of which were completed decades ago. "The goal of this study was to comprehensively simulate all the possible molecular interactions in a well studied strain of E. coli to gain a global view of the range of functional network states," said Barrett. "Complex cellular networks can potentially generate lots of different behaviors, but we find that cells utilize only a few of them."........

Mark      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 8:13 PM CT

Cancers Use "Cellular Bookmarks"

Cancers Use
Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists and their colleagues have discovered that non-cancerous bone marrow cells establish "cellular bookmarks" in target organs that guide the spread of cancer cells to their predetermined destination.

The scientists said their findings could have a major impact on how oncologists assess the likeliness of metastasis to specific organs. Their discovery may also help identify subsets of high risk cancer patients who are prone to distant metastases. Those patients would likely benefit from a more aggressive adjuvant treatment to prevent cancer relapse.

Ultimately, understanding how cellular bookmarking works at the molecular level could lead to new information that may help thwart metastasis, a major cause of death among cancer patients, said one of the study's senior authors, Shahin Rafii, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

The researchers, led by David Lyden and Rafii, published their findings in the December 8, 2005, issue of the journal Nature. Lyden and colleagues are at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Weill Medical College.

Rafii and Lyden's group had established that a specific subset of bone marrow derived cells (BMDCs ) - which are comprised of hematopoietic progenitor cells capable of dividing and forming colonies- are recruited by tumors to aid in the growth of new blood vessels. The generation of new blood vessels occurs through a process called angiogenesis. In prior studies, the scientists had shown that co-recruitment of hematopoietic BMDCs expressing the angiogenic factor receptor, VEGFR1, along with the vascular cells accelerated the assembly of newly formed blood vessels and tumor growth.

"In the current paper, we set forth another novel concept by demonstrating that a non-cancerous cluster of VEGFR1-positive hematopoietic BMDCs were recruited to a pre-metastatic niche, thereby establishing a permissive docking site previous to the arrival of the circulating tumor cells, " said Rafii. Biologists use the term "niche" to describe a specialized cellular microenvironment that provides support to specific types of cells. A "pre-metastatic niche" is a cellular microenvironment that is specialized for the development of metastatic tumor cells.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 8:07 PM CT

Patients Who Trust Their Doctors

Patients Who Trust Their Doctors
Patients with higher levels of trust in their regular physicians are more likely than patients with less trust to have better care, a new study finds.

"Increasing patients' trust in a clinician may be associated with improvement among patients in two important areas: getting care promptly and getting needed health care," the authors write in the recent issue of the journal Health Services Research.

"This study emphasizes the importance of examining multiple levels of the context of health care simultaneously," said lead author Stefanie Mollborn of Stanford University. "We found that insurance status and poverty, and race-ethnicity factors influence the interaction level aspect of trust and its associations with unmet needs and delayed care".

The scientists measured the association of trust with unmet health care needs and delayed care in patients from a variety of ethnicities and income levels who had a regular physician.

They found that less trust was associated with delayed care and particularly with unmet health care needs in most patients; however, among African-Americans, Hispanics, the poor and the uninsured, delayed care was not affected by trust. Surprisingly, patients who are more educated are more likely to have unmet or delayed health care needs than patients with less education.

Peter Muennig, M.D., of Columbia University, said that some of the findings need to be examined more closely and the patients' characteristics disentangled. "It could be that physicians who rush and fail to address all of a patient's needs are leading to lower levels of trust," Muennig said. "If this is the direction of causality, then delayed care might be seen as an institutional factor and unmet needs as a personal factor between the provider and the patient".

Janet      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 7:46 PM CT

Neuron Sprouts Its Branches

Neuron Sprouts Its Branches Michael D. Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D.
Neurobiologists have gained new insights into how neurons control growth of the intricate tracery of branches called dendrites that enable them to connect with their neighbors. Dendritic connections are the basic receiving stations by which neurons form the signaling networks that constitute the brain's circuitry.

Such basic insights into neuronal growth will help scientists better understand brain development in children, as well as aid efforts to restore neuronal connections lost to injury, stroke or neurodegenerative disease, said the researchers.

In a paper published in the Dec. 8, 2005, issue of Neuron, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Michael Ehlers and colleagues reported that structures called "Golgi outposts" play a central role as distribution points for proteins that form the building blocks of the growing dendrites.

Besides Ehlers, who is at Duke University Medical Center, other co-authors were April Horton in Ehlers' laboratory; Richard Weinberg of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.; Bence Rácz in Weinberg's laboratory; and Eric Monson and Anna Lin of Duke's Department of Physics. The research was sponsored by The National Institutes of Health.

The Golgi apparatus is a cellular warehouse responsible for receiving, sorting and shipping cargoes of newly synthesized molecules needed for cell growth and function. Until the new findings, scientists believed that only a central Golgi apparatus played a role in such distribution, said Ehlers.

"In most mammalian cells, the Golgi has a very stereotyped structure, a stacked system that resides near the cell nucleus in the middle of the cell," he said. "But mammalian neurons in the brain are huge, with a surface area about ten thousand times that of the average cell. So, it was an entirely open question where all the membrane components came from to generate the complex surface of growing dendrites. And we thought these remote structures we had discovered in dendrites called Golgi outposts might play a role."........

Daniel      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 7:41 PM CT

Fatal Heart Condition Among Young Athletes

Fatal Heart Condition Among Young Athletes
A Johns Hopkins study has provided the most comprehensive description to date of people most likely to develop a relatively rare heart condition, called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), known to be among the top causes of sudden cardiac death among young athletes.

In their study, would be published in the journal Circulation online Dec. 12, the Hopkins researchers analyzed characteristics of 100 ARVD patients, including 69 while still alive and 31 diagnosed postmortem. The subjects included men and women of a number of ethnic backgrounds, with a median age of 31.

The subjects were part of Hopkins' registry of U.S. patients with the condition, which appears on MRI scans as either a protruding or pouch-like bulge from the right side of the heart or a dilated, poorly functioning right ventricle.

As noted in numerous memorials to athletes posted to the Internet, ARVD is composed of a range of symptoms, including irregular heartbeat and the presence of excess amounts of fatty tissue in the heart's right ventricle, the lesser known of the heart's two main pumping chambers and the one that pumps blood to the lungs. As a result, the abnormal and often weakened and scarred right ventricle dramatically increases the risk of harmful ventricular arrhythmias and possible sudden cardiac death.

Estimates from scientists and the Heart Rhythm Society suggest that ARVD accounts for up to 5 percent of the 300,000 deaths each year in the United States from sudden cardiac death. A family history of sudden cardiac death at a young age is considered a major risk factor for the disorder. Athletes are also at particular risk, but the precise biological reasons for this remain unknown.

According to senior study investigator and cardiac electrophysiologist Hugh Calkins, M.D., "physicians need to know that this is a serious disease, and they should be on the lookout for its early signs and symptoms because it is an important cause of sudden cardiac death in apparently healthy young individuals.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 7:32 PM CT

Radiotherapy after lumpectomy saves lives

Radiotherapy after lumpectomy saves lives
Following a lumpectomy for breast cancer, radiotherapy to the breast reduces the risk of eventually dying from the disease - according to research published in today's (Friday's) The Lancet*.

An international team of scientists found that a woman's five-year risk of the cancer returning in or near the breast after a lumpectomy dropped from 26 percent to seven percent if she also received radiotherapy, and the 15-year risk of dying from the disease dropped from 36 percent to 31 percent.

They carried out a worldwide overview of trials of radiotherapy and of different types of surgery, involving 40,000 women with early breast cancer, and found that for every four breast cancer recurrences avoided by radiotherapy, one death is prevented.

The findings from this Cancer Research UK and Medical Research Council funded study will help doctors and patients decide on the most appropriate therapy.

Present UK guidelines on improving outcomes in breast cancer already state that radiotherapy should be regarded as standard therapy after a lumpectomy. But, as with any procedure, the therapy given depends on discussions between doctors and patients about the benefits and side effects, and may, in a minority of cases, result in non-standard therapy being offered.

The study also shows similar benefits from radiotherapy for women who had their entire breast removed but whose cancer had already spread to the armpit. The chances of the cancer coming back in or near the breast or armpit dropped from 23 percent to six percent, and the risk of dying from breast cancer dropped from 60 percent to 55 percent.

However, for women who had a breast removed, but whose cancer had not spread to the armpit, radiotherapy was found not to be appropriate; any benefits were slight and were outweighed by the side effects of radiotherapy. These can include permanent swelling of the arm, permanent limitation of shoulder movement and, occasionally, life-threatening diseases such as heart attack or a new cancer in the lung or opposite breast.........

Emily      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 7:22 PM CT

Mental Stress May Raise Cholesterol Levels

Mental Stress May Raise Cholesterol Levels
There is good evidence to show that stress can increase a person's heart rate, lower the immune system's ability to fight colds and increase certain inflammatory markers but can stress also raise a person's cholesterol? It appears so for some people, according to a new study that examines how reactions to stress over a period of time can raise a person's lipid levels.

This finding is reported in the recent issue of Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). In a sample of 199 healthy middle-aged men and women, scientists Andrew Steptoe, D.Sc., and Lena Brydon, Ph.D., of University College London examined how individuals react to stress and whether this reaction can increase cholesterol and heighten cardiovascular risk in the future. Changes in total cholesterol, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), were assessed in the participants before and three years after completing two stress tasks.

Our study found that individuals vary in their cholesterol responses to stress, said Dr. Steptoe. "Some of the participants show large increases even in the short term, while others show very little response. The cholesterol responses that we measured in the lab probably reflect the way people react to challenges in everyday life as well. So the larger cholesterol responders to stress tasks will be large responders to emotional situations in their lives. It is these responses in everyday life that accumulate to lead to an increase in fasting cholesterol or lipid levels three years later. It appears that a person's reaction to stress is one mechanism through which higher lipid levels may develop."

The stress testing session involved examining the participants' cardiovascular, inflammatory and hemostatic functions before and after their responses to performance on moderately stressful behavioral tasks. The stress tasks used were computerized color- word interference and mirror tracing. The color-word task involved flashing a series of target color words in incongruous colors on a computer screen (ex. Yellow letters spelling the color blue). At the bottom of the computer screen, four names of colors were displayed in incorrect colors. The object of the task was to match the name of the color to the target word. The other task used was mirror tracing, which mandatory the participant to trace a star seen in a mirror image. The participants were told to focus more on accuracy than on speed in both tasks.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 15, 2005, 7:3 PM CT

Mechanisms of Tumor Growth

Mechanisms of Tumor Growth
Scientists at Columbia University Medical Center have identified an inherent feature of stem and progenitor cells that may promote initiation and progression of malignant tumors.

As per a research findings published in the recent issue of Cancer Cell, the team showed that stem and progenitor cells are susceptible to a specific error during cell division that can result in severe chromosomal defects. This susceptibility may explain how a tumor-initiating cell, also known as a cancer stem cell, arises from a normal cell. It may also explain how a cancer stem cell acquires additional mutations that increase tumor malignancy.

According to Timothy Bestor, Ph.D., and Marc Damelin, Ph.D., of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, understanding the nature of cancer stem cells could result in new therapies that specifically target those cells, which are thought to be the driving force of tumor progression.

The process of cell division is closely monitored by the cell, because a mistake can result in a cancer-causing chromosome abnormalities. Typically during cell division, cells monitor quality control with a series of checkpoints. One such checkpoint confirms that the cell's chromosomes have been disentangled before they are to be pulled apart in mitosis, to ensure that the chromosomes will be separated appropriately.

The Columbia scientists found, however, that stem and progenitor cells are deficient in this checkpoint and will divide even if the chromosomes are entangled. All three cell types tested by the scientists - mouse embryonic stem cells, mouse neural progenitor cells, and human bone marrow progenitor cells - attempted cell division with entangled chromosomes. The scientists think it likely that cancer stem cells, which closely resemble normal stem cells, have the same deficiency.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 9:43 PM CT

New Therapy For Advanced-Stage Lymphoma

New Therapy For Advanced-Stage Lymphoma Follicular lymphoma
Oncologists have been stymied by how to treat some patients with lymphoma who do not respond to new, targeted therapies. A study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and other institutions shows there might be a new drug that combats indolent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when others fail.

Bendamustine, an agent that attacks cancer cells' DNA forcing them to self-destruct and disrupting the cell-division cycle, was given to 77 patients, most of whom had advanced follicular lymphoma, who did not respond to rituximab, considered the wonder-drug for lymphomas, and 74 percent of them responded, including 35 percent who were brought into remission.

"This is very exciting because it's the first study of chemotherapy for a class of patients who didn't respond to rituximab and it provides an effective alternative for them," said Jonathan Friedberg, M.D., of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He presented results of the international study today at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting in Atlanta.

"It's unusual to see this kind of response in patients so far along in the course of their disease, particularly since they previously did not response to other alkylators and were relapsed from rituximab," said Friedberg, associate director of lymphoma clinical research at Wilmot.

About half of follicular lymphoma patients respond to rituximab as a single agent, and a standard therapy is with a chemotherapy combination called CHOP. Doctors have struggled with how to treat people who don't respond, or stop responding to that treatment. It's common for patients with follicular lymphoma to relapse multiple times during the typically 10-year natural progression of the disease.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 8:11 PM CT

Depression Improves After Epilepsy Surgery

Depression Improves After Epilepsy Surgery
Depression and anxiety are common problems for people whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication. A new study found that depression and anxiety improve significantly after epilepsy surgery.

The study, which is published in the December 13, 2005, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that the rate of depression and anxiety disorders decreased by more than 50 percent up to two years after the surgery. People who no longer experienced any seizures after surgery were even more likely to be free of depression and anxiety.

"These results are important because depression and anxiety can significantly affect the quality of life," said study author Orrin Devinsky, MD, Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and Director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. "For people with refractory epilepsy, studies show that depression is more likely to affect their quality of life than how often they have seizures or how a number of drugs they have to take.".

The study involved 360 people in seven U.S. epilepsy centers who were undergoing epilepsy surgery to remove the area of the brain producing the seizures. Epilepsy surgery is generally reserved for those whose seizures cannot be adequately controlled by medication. The majority of participants had surgery on the brain's temporal lobe. The participants' mental health and any symptoms of depression and anxiety were evaluated before surgery and at three months, one year, and two years after surgery.

Previous to the surgery, 22 percent of the participants met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression, compared to 9 percent two years after the surgery. For anxiety disorders, 18 percent met the criteria for a diagnosis before the surgery, compared to 10 percent two years after the surgery.........

Mike      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 8:5 PM CT

Squinting While Staring At A Computer

Squinting While Staring At A Computer
Squinting at a computer screen can cut in half the number of times someone blinks each minute. And that could lead to an irritating condition called dry eye, new research suggests.

The more that the participants in this study squinted their eyes, the less they blinked. And the less they blinked, the more their eyes ached or burned, and the more they reported sensations of dryness, irritation and tearing.

Just a slight amount of squinting reduced blink rates by half, from 15 blinks a minute to 7.5 blinks a minute.

"People tend to squint when they read a book or a computer display, and that squinting makes the blink rate go way down," said James Sheedy, the study's lead author and a professor of optometry at Ohio State University. "Blinking rewets the eyes. So if your job requires a lot of reading or other visually intense work, you may be blinking far less than normal, which may cause eye strain and dry eye."

Squinting serves two purposes: It improves eyesight by helping to more clearly define objects that are out of focus. It also cuts down on the brightness from sources of glare. It may be voluntary or involuntary - a person working at a computer may not realize that he is squinting.

Dry eye is commonly treatable with over-the-counter eye drops. It's rarely a debilitating condition, but it can be irritating and painful.

The results appear in a January issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. Sheedy conducted the study with Ohio State colleagues Sowjanya Gowrisankaran, a graduate student, and John Hayes, a research scientist in optometry.

The scientists asked 10 college students to squint at different levels. All participants had 20/20 vision in both eyes. The scientists attached two tiny electrodes to the lower eyelids of each student. The electrodes were also attached to an electromyogram, a machine that records the electrical activity of muscles. In this case, the scientists wanted to record the action of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which encircles the eye socket and allows the eye to both blink and squint. The electromyogram measured the different degrees of squint.........

Mike      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 7:49 PM CT

Simple Instrument To Check Literacy

Simple Instrument To Check  Literacy
Health-care providers soon will have access to a new tool designed to assess patients' health literacy skills quickly and simply, thanks to medical school scientists at the universities of Arizona and North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Knowing for sure if patients can understand health information enables doctors and nurses, for example, to boost how well patients fare.

Dr. Barry D. Weiss, professor of family and community medicine at AU, and Drs. Michael Pignone, associate professor, and Darren DeWalt, assistant professor, both in medicine at UNC, and his colleagues developed what they call the "Newest Vital Sign." Their chief goals are to improve recognition of limited literacy and its effect on health and health care.

The Newest Vital Sign is a simple, six-question assessment based on an ice cream nutrition label, Pignone said. It enables health workers to gauge individuals' ability to read, comprehend plain English and act on health information in productive ways. It is the only rapid assessment tool developed both in Spanish and English.

"We believe this offers a way for providers to identify patients at risk for literacy-related communication problems," he said. "Here at UNC, we are also developing interventions to help patients with low literacy get the education, training and care they need for conditions like diabetes, asthma, and heart failure. Being able to identify those with communication problems early on and tailor messages to fit each patient's literacy level can reduce most such problems.".

Poorer-than-optimal results spring from trouble patients have in navigating the complexities of health care, Pignone said, from interpreting instructions for drugs and self-care regimens to understanding insurance and informed-consent documents. Among the consequences are failure to receive appropriate preventive care, increased hospitalization risks and possibly higher health-care costs.........

Janet      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 7:33 PM CT

Lack of Resources, Not Lack of Students, Cause Nurse Shortage

Lack of Resources, Not Lack of Students, Cause Nurse Shortage
Preliminary data from a new survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports the view of a prominent Houston nursing educator that America's nursing shortage cannot be blamed on a lack of people wanting to become nurses. Insufficient space and resources to train all of those qualified to become nurses, along with an ever-shrinking pool of people willing and able to turn down higher-paying nursing jobs to become educators, is the actual cause of the problem.

"Texas nursing schools turned away 4,200 qualified applicants last year because they lacked the faculty, equipment and space with which to educate them," said Patricia L. Starck, D.S.N., dean of The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston. "Our school alone had to turn away 10 applicants for every one we accepted, because of limited resources.".

The AACN just released preliminary data that shows enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs increased by 13 percent from 2004 to 2005. However, surveyed nursing colleges and universities were forced to deny entry to 32,617 qualified applications in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 3,600 turned away in 2002.

The federal government is projecting a shortfall of one million registered nurses by the year 2012. According to research conducted at Vanderbilt University, enrollment in nursing programs would have to increase by at least 40 percent annually to replace those nurses expected to leave the workforce through retirement. The full report is available online at

Texas is far below the national average of the nurse-to-population ratio, currently 782 nurses per 100,000 people. In Texas, the ratio is 609 nurses per 100,000 people. By some estimates, Texas will need 138,000 additional nurses in the next seven to 10 years.........

Janet      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 7:24 PM CT

Mathematics For Discerning Immune Response

Mathematics For Discerning Immune Response
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine a five-year, $9.1 million contract to develop sophisticated mathematical models for investigating how the immune system responds to the pathogens that cause flu, tuberculosis (TB) and tularemia, an particularly dangerous infection that some authorities believe could be used as a biological weapon. Such models should help expedite the development of vaccines and therapies against these and other infectious agents and help scientists and public health officials in their efforts to predict or prevent disease outbreaks as well as determine the best courses of therapy.

The contract establishes Pitt as an Immune Modeling Center, one of four supported by the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and takes advantage of Pitt's existing collaborations with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan.

"This center's work will draw upon our expertise in mathematical modeling of the immune system as well as our knowledge about immunity to infectious diseases. Working as a team of immunologists, computational biologists, computer researchers and mathematicians, our goal is to capture the complexity of the immune system through mathematics," said Penelope A. Morel, M.D., associate professor of immunology and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the Pitt-based Immune Modeling Center. Shlomo Ta'asan, Ph.D., professor of mathematics in Carnegie Mellon's Mellon College of Science, is co-principal investigator of the center.

The Immune Modeling Center will focus on understanding the innate, or natural, and adaptive immune responses to influenza A virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB, and Francisella tularensis, the bacterium responsible for tularemia. Since each of these organisms enters the body via the lung, the investigators will study the specific immune cells recruited to the lung and identify the particular genes expressed and the molecules produced in response to infection. A combination of mathematical and animal models will be employed to test different vaccine and therapeutic strategies, including a novel approach that aims to enhance immune response through certain proteins called cytokines.........

Mark      Permalink

December 14, 2005 7:11 PM CT

Comprehensive Effort to Explore Cancer Genomics

Comprehensive Effort to Explore Cancer Genomics
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today launched a comprehensive effort to accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, particularly large-scale genome sequencing. The overall effort, called The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), will begin with a pilot project to determine the feasibility of a full-scale effort to systematically explore the universe of genomic changes involved in all types of human cancer.

"Now is the time to move forward with this pioneering initiative. Thanks to the tools and technologies developed by the Human Genome Project and recent advances in using genetic information to improve cancer diagnosis and therapy, it is now possible to envision a systematic effort to map the changes in the human genetic blueprint associated with all known forms of cancer," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "This atlas of genomic changes will provide new insights into the biological basis of cancer, which in turn will lead to new tests to detect cancer in its early, most treatable stages; new therapies to target cancer at its most vulnerable points; and, ultimately, new strategies to prevent cancer."

NCI and NHGRI announced today at a news conference in Washington, D.C., that they have each committed $50 million over three years to the TCGA Pilot Project. The project will develop and test the complex science and technology framework needed to systematically identify and characterize the genetic mutations and other genomic changes associated with cancer. The pilot will involve a few types of cancer that will be chosen for their value in helping to determine the feasibility of a possible larger-scale project. The process for determining the types of cancers to be studied is currently underway.........

Daniel      Permalink

December 14, 2005

Getting That Tattoo From Your Skin

Getting That Tattoo From Your Skin
If you didn't believe your mom when she said that you would regret getting your beloved's name tattooed on your arm - you are not alone.

Tattoos are an ancient tradition. In some cultures, tattooing was done for prestige and was very sacred. Today, people get tattoos in memory of loved ones, as a sign of rebellion or just to be cool.

However, tattoos can carry many health risks.

"If not done properly, the most common health risks are scarring, allergic reactions, and Hepatitis C," said Dr. Ramsey Markus, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of the dermatology laser center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Allergic reactions are especially bothersome as they are often chronic, itchy and difficult to treat. Red inks are the most likely to cause allergic reactions.".

There's no cure for Hepatitis C, which is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus. Infections can occur in new tattoos, particularly without appropriate after care.

A tattoo is a puncture wound, made deep in your skin, that's filled with ink. Tattoos are long-lasting because they are injected into the dermis, the second layer of skin where the cells are stable and do not shed.

Unfortunately, it's often more expensive to remove a tattoo than it is to get one. Dermatologists at Baylor College of Medicine are using the Medlite C6 laser, one of the safest and fastest tattoo removal lasers.

"Before the latest laser technology, the only way to remove a tattoo was surgically," Markus said. "The tattoo would be cut out, burned off or sanded away. Salabrasion, or sanding the skin and rubbing in salt, was also effective.".

The Medlite C6 laser produces a beam of laser light that passes through the skin to break up the ink. The ink particles that are small enough are removed gradually for up to three months by the immune system. The therapy takes a few minutes depending on the size and color of the tattoo.........

Sue      Permalink

December 14, 2005

Improving Alcoholism Treatment

Improving Alcoholism Treatment
Early in 2006, scientists at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) will be going into the field with a study designed to translate alcoholism research findings into the "real world" of community-based substance abuse therapy clinics.

The study is supported by a $2,670,633 grant awarded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

One hundred and fifty New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services outpatient clinics across the state will be invited to participate over the course of the two-year recruitment period. Staff at the clinics will receive an intensive package of materials and an on-site presentation focusing on a Motivational Interviewing(MI)-based preparatory session. During the year after receiving the materials, clinicians will be asked to complete short questionnaires regarding whether they have incorporated the technique into their clinical work.

MI, which originated in the field of addictions, is a powerful client-centered method for exploring and resolving the natural ambivalence that clients have toward change. An MI-based preparatory session, delivered early in therapy, may reduce the risk that clients will end therapy prematurely and increase the likelihood that clients will make needed changes in their drinking.

"In a clinical trial conducted at RIA, we have shown that an MI-based preparatory session reduces therapy dropout rates, increases session attendance and improves therapy outcomes for outpatient clients," Kimberly S. Walitzer, Ph.D., explained. "If we can help individuals stay in therapy, we have a better chance of helping them make real changes in their lives.".

Walitzer, RIA's deputy director, is the principal investigator on the study. She also is a research associate professor in the Department of Psychology, UB College of Arts and Sciences.........

JoAnn      Permalink

December 14, 2005

Pancreatic Cancer Linked to Insulin Resistance

Pancreatic Cancer Linked to Insulin Resistance
A new study led by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, shows for the first time that male smokers with the highest insulin levels are twice as likely to develop pancreas cancer as men with the lowest levels. Similarly, men with glucose levels in the range of clinical diabetes were twice as likely to develop the cancer as men with normal glucose levels. This study examined data from the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study* of 29,000 male smokers in Finland and appears in the December 14, 2005, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Study investigators drew blood from enrollees when they joined the ATBC Study in the mid-1980s. This allowed the scientists to determine participants' overnight fasting insulin and glucose levels a number of years ahead of when they might be diagnosed with cancer. Over the course of 17 years, 169 men in the study developed pancreas cancer.

Study results show a two-fold increase in risk of pancreas cancer in the quartile of men with the highest fasting serum insulin levels (greater than 6.1 microinternational units per milliliter) compared to those in the lowest quartile (less than 2.75 microinternational units per milliliter). Increasing concentrations of glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance were also associated with pancreas cancer. Moreover, the risk for pancreas cancer increased with longer follow-up time.

"Some men were in the highest quartile of insulin or had abnormal glucose levels more than a decade before the cancer appeared," noted lead researcher Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. "It is important to note, however, that this study was only done in male smokers and that any assumptions about risk in the general population or whether one can determine their own pancreas cancer risk specifically based on insulin levels is premature."........

Daniel      Permalink

December 14, 2005

Bipolar Disorder In Preschoolers

Bipolar Disorder In Preschoolers Mania can be confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Child psychiatry scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a small group of preschoolers who appear to suffer from bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness. The findings, presented this fall at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, highlight symptoms that distinguish bipolar disorder from other mental health problems in very young children.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is difficult because the manic phase of the illness can be confused with the more common attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The confusion arises because mania and ADHD both involve hyperactivity, irritability and distractibility. These issues may be even more difficult in young children who display some of these behaviors and emotions normally. However, Joan Luby, M.D., an associate professor of child psychiatry, found mania symptoms, as defined by psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), did not occur in healthy preschoolers and that three main symptoms distinguished bipolar disorder from ADHD in preschoolers: elation, grandiosity and hypersexuality.

Similar to the mania symptoms in older bipolar children - first outlined by Barbara Geller, M.D., professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine - young children who manifested elation, grandiosity and hypersexuality had dramatically higher odds of having bipolar disorder when compared to children with ADHD.

"This is different than the ordinary, energetic state of young children, even children with ADHD," Luby explains. "When you ask healthy young children what they're capable of doing, they are known to inflate their capabilities and say they can run very fast or jump very high or even fly like Superman. What's different about grandiose children is that they become delusional and actually believe they can do things like run the preschool. An extreme example that I've seen involved a manic preschooler who believed that she made the sun rise and set."

JoAnn      Permalink

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