December 22, 2008, 9:24 PM CT
Law Enforcement to Deter Drinking and Driving
Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that an estimated 2 million drunk drivers with three or more convictions will be on the roads this holiday season. In 2007, approximately 1,500 people nationwide were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. Scientists from the University of Missouri and the University of Georgia observed that the most important deterrence factors for high-risk drivers are their perceptions of the likelihood of being stopped or arrested and their support for deterrence laws.
All U.S. states have laws designed to deter impaired driving, but there is little evidence on what works to deter drivers who have a high risk of drinking and driving. The scientists observed that the existence of laws, such as the.08 blood alcohol content and open container restrictions, affect only those less likely to drink and drive, and the actual number of impaired driving arrests in a state has no significant effect on drivers' likelihood of drinking and driving.
"Essentially, law enforcement needs to focus on perceptions; it is important that drivers perceive that they will be caught if they drive impaired," said Lilliard Richardson, professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs. "We observed that high-risk drivers are less likely to drink and drive if they perceive they are likely to be stopped or arrested by police. However, the mere existence of laws designed to discourage people from drinking and driving does not impact high-risk drivers. The results provide support for the value of high-visibility enforcement campaigns. Public safety education and media efforts are important components of the overall strategy for reducing impaired driving".........
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December 22, 2008, 9:22 PM CT
Artificial human bone marrow in a test tube
Artificial bone marrow that can continuously make red and white blood cells has been created in a University of Michigan lab.
This development could lead to simpler pharmaceutical drug testing, closer study of immune system defects and a continuous supply of blood for transfusions.
The substance grows on a 3-D scaffold that mimics the tissues supporting bone marrow in the body, said Nicholas Kotov, a professor in the U-M departments of Chemical Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; and Biomedical Engineering.
The marrow is not made to be implanted in the body, like most 3-D biomedical scaffolds. It is designed to function in a test tube.
Kotov, principal investigator, is an author of a paper about the research currently published online in the journal Biomaterials
Joan Nichols, professor from the University of Texas Medical Branch, collaborated on a number of aspects of the project.
"This is the first successful artificial bone marrow," Kotov said. "It has two of the essential functions of bone marrow. It can replicate blood stem cells and produce B cells. The latter are the key immune cells producing antibodies that are important to fighting a number of diseases".
Blood stem cells give rise to blood as well as several other types of cells. B cells, a type of white blood cell, battle colds, bacterial infections, and other foreign or abnormal cells including some cancers.........
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December 22, 2008, 9:19 PM CT
Medical lessons from cell phones
Cell phones have already revolutionized the way people around the world communicate and do business. Thanks to advances being made at UCLA, they are about to do the same thing for medicine.
In the lab of UCLA electrical engineering professor Aydogan Ozcan, a prototype cell phone has been constructed that is capable of monitoring the condition of HIV and malaria patients, as well as testing water quality in undeveloped areas or disaster sites. The innovative imaging technology was invented by Ozcan, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, and has been miniaturized by scientists in his lab to the point that it can fit in standard cell phones.
The imaging platform, known as LUCAS (Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging), has now been successfully installed in both a cell phone and a webcam. Both devices acquire an image in the same way, using a short wavelength blue light to illuminate a blood, saliva or other fluid sample. LUCAS captures an image of the microparticles in the solution using a sensor array.
Because red blood cells and other microparticles have a distinct diffraction pattern, or shadow image, they can be identified and counted virtually instantaneously by LUCAS using a custom-developed "decision algorithm" that compares the captured shadow images to a library of training images. Data collected by LUCAS can then be sent to a hospital for analysis and diagnosis using the cell phone, or transferred via USB to a computer for transmission to a hospital.........
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December 22, 2008, 5:33 AM CT
Role of cardiovascular proteins in Alzheimer's
Scientists have observed that two proteins which work in tandem in the brain's blood vessels present a double whammy in Alzheimer's disease. Not only do the proteins lessen blood flow in the brain, but they also reduce the rate at which the brain is able to remove amyloid beta, the protein that builds up in toxic quantities in the brains of patients with the disease.
The work, described in a paper published online Dec. 21 in the journal Nature Cell Biology
, provides hard evidence directly linking two processes believed to be at play in Alzheimer's disease: reduction in blood flow and the buildup of toxic amyloid beta. The research makes the interaction between the two proteins a seductive target for scientists seeking to address both issues.
Researchers were surprised at the finding, which puts two proteins known for their role in the cardiovascular system front and center in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
"This is quite unexpected," said Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and a senior author of the study. "Conversely, both of these processes are mediated by the smooth muscle cells along blood vessel walls, and we know that those are seriously compromised in patients with Alzheimer's disease, so perhaps we shouldn't be completely surprised".........
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December 22, 2008, 5:27 AM CT
Predicting metastasis from colon cancer
Cancer Scientists at the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charit Universitts Medizin Berlin (Gera number of) have identified a gene which enables them to predict for the first time with high probability if colon cancer is going to metastasize. Assistant Professor Dr. Ulrike Stein, Professor Peter M. Schlag, and Professor Walter Birchmeier were able to demonstrate that the gene MACC1 (Metastasis-Associated in Colon Cancer 1) not only promotes tumor growth but also the development of metastasis.When MACC1 gene activity is low, the life expectancy of colon cancer patients is longer compared to patients with high MACC1 levels. (Nature Medicine
, doi: 10.1038/nm.1889)*.
As per the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, more than 108,000 people developed colon cancer in the US in 2008. Despite surgery, chemo- and radiotherapy, only 50 percent of patients can be cured because 20 percent of the patients have already developed metastasis by the time their colon cancer is diagnosed. In addition, one-third of patients whose therapy of the original colon cancer was successful will, nevertheless, go on to develop metastasis.
The MDC and Charit scientists are convinced that the identification of the MACC1 gene will aid medical doctors in identifying those patients as early as possible who are at high risk of developing life-threatening metastasis in the liver and the lungs. As a result, more intensive therapy and follow-up care could be offered to high risk patients.........
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December 22, 2008, 5:24 AM CT
A new model for studying cancer
New research sheds light on a common link between tumor formation and Costello Syndrome, an inherited developmental disorder in which patients have cardiac defects, mild mental retardation, and face-shape abnormalities. The study reported in the journal Disease Models & Mechanisms
(DMM), dmm.biologists.org uses a zebrafish model to help explain a puzzling correlation between Costello syndrome and cancer.
Costello Syndrome is one of several developmental disorders caused by mutations in a gene known as H-RAS. Additionally, mutations in H-RAS and the Ras family of genes are common in most human cancers. Thus, researchers are trying to determine how genetic mutations that activate H-RAS can cause a congenital illness as well as cancer. In this new study, Cristina Santoriello and his colleagues investigate this mystery by expressing activated H-RAS in zebrafish, which are often used to study the developmental process. They observed that the effect of mutant H-RAS in part depends on the timing and level of gene expression. Higher levels of H-RAS caused overabundant cell-growth, reminiscent of tumors. Furthermore, zebrafish expressing mutant H-RAS through development displayed hallmarks of the human Costello Syndrome, such as reduced body size, heart defects, and physical deformities.........
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December 22, 2008, 5:22 AM CT
Genes that may cause lung cancer
Individuals with particular variants of certain genes involved in metabolizing the most potent carcinogen found in cigarette smoke have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. That is the conclusion of a new study reported in the February 1, 2009 issue of CANCER
, a peer-evaluated journal of the American Cancer Society. The study's results may help shed light on how lung cancer develops and could have important implications for preventing smoking-related cancers.
Tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) is a component of cigarette smoke that has been shown to cause lung cancer in rodents. Certain enzymes act to protect the body from this type of chemical by turning it into nontoxic forms or by transporting it from cells. For example, ATP-binding cassette transporters encoded by genes known as ABCB1 and ABCC1 are involved in eliminating carcinogens from the lungs, protecting them against inhaled toxins.
Scientists suspect that individuals with alterations in these genes might have an increased susceptibility to develop lung cancer. Recently, a team of researchers led by Dr. Daru Lu and Dr. Haijian Wang of the Fudan University in Shanghai identified common variants at the beginning and end of the ABC1 and ABCC1 genes. They then analyzed these variants in 500 lung cancer patients and 517 cancer-free controls in a Chinese population.........
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December 22, 2008, 5:19 AM CT
How you see yourself while pregnant
Body image is a tricky thing for a number of women. Like looking into a funhouse mirror, the way they perceive their bodies can make them think they're thinner or more obese than they actually are. Scientists led by Temple University's Sharon Herring, MD, MPH, have observed that this misperception is linked to excess weight gain during pregnancy which can cause complications for both mother and baby.
As per a research findings published on December 19 in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth,
Herring and a team of scientists from the department of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care observed that overweight and obese women who thought they weighed less than they actually did at the start of pregnancy had seven times the odds of gaining excessive weight during their pregnancy. In contrast, normal weight women who thought they weighed more than they actually did had twice to the odds of gaining excessive weight during their pregnancy.
The reasons for misperceived body weight aren't clear, but Herring and her team speculate that the high prevalence of obesity in the US might account for a skewed body image among the overweight or obese group so that they believe they are at a normal weight, and may be less likely to follow pregnancy weight gain guidelines as a result.........
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December 19, 2008, 5:30 AM CT
First trimester smoking linked to oral clefts
Smoking during the first trimester of pregnancy is clearly linked with an increased risk of cleft lip in newborns. Genes that play a role in detoxification of cigarette smoke do not appear to be involved. This is shown in a new study reported in the journal Epidemiology.
Oral clefts are one of the most common birth defects. Closure of the lip occurs about 5 weeks into pregnancy, followed by closure of the palate at week 9. If this does not happen, a cleft lip and/or cleft palate are the result, requiring surgery. The scientists wanted to see if smoking or exposure to passive smoking play a role in these defects and whether genes influence the oral cleft risk through the way toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke are processed.
The study is based on an extensive Norwegian case-control study on oral clefts with collaborating scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, University of Bergen, Rikshospital, Haukeland University Hospital and the National Institutes of Health in USA. Between 1996 and 2001, 676 babies born with oral clefts were referred for cleft surgery, and of these, 573 participated in the study. 763 babies born during the same period in Norway were randomly selected as controls.DNA and questionnaires
Blood samples were taken from the children referred for surgery and their PKU test samples, routinely taken at birth, were also retrieved. Their mothers and fathers donated cheek swabs and blood samples. From the control group, cheek swabs were obtained from the mother, father (after November 1998) and child, plus the PKU test sample taken at birth. DNA was extracted from the samples.........
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December 19, 2008, 5:26 AM CT
Dangerous skin cancer
The German Cancer Society has worked out new guidelines for the diagnosis and therapy of cancerous melanomaa disease with unfavorable prognosis. Cancerous melanoma is responsible for 90% of deaths from skin cancer. The incidence has increased 5-fold within the last 30 years and UV radiation is believed to be an important cause. Caucasian populations are most affected.
Claus Garbe of Tbingen University and his coauthors present the treatment of melanoma in the current edition of Deutsches rzteblatt International
(Dtsch Arztebl Int
2008; 105: 845-51). Physicians should confirm the diagnosis by histopathology after complete surgical removal of the tumor. The German Cancer Society recommends specific therapys or therapeutic combinations, depending on the thickness of the tumor and its stage. For example, if the tumor has more than a specific thickness, it is recommended that the primary tumor should be surgically removed, together with the sentinel lymph nodes and in combination with immunotherapy. If surgical removal is not possible, radiotherapy is indicated. If there are distant metastases, physicians should perform monochemotherapy.........
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