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May 3, 2006, 10:39 PM CT

Monkey Business And Human Business

Monkey Business And Human Business
Little attention has been paid to whether systematic economic biases such as risk-aversion are learned behaviors - and thus easily ameliorated through market incentives - or biologically based, arising in novel situations and in spite of experience. In a groundbreaking new study from the Journal of Political Economy, Yale scientists extend this question across species, exploring how a colony of capuchin monkeys responds to economic decisions. They found that monkeys doing business - including trading and gambling - behave in ways that closely mirror our own behavioral inclinations.

"Traditionally, economists have remained agnostic as to the origins of human preferences," write M. Keith Chen, Venkat Lakshminarayanan, and Laurie R. Santos. "[But] if much of the fundamental structure of our preferences were so deep rooted as to extend to closely-related species, this would bolster the assumption of preference stability."

As part of the study, the scientists presented capuchin monkeys with two payoff-identical gambles: one in which a good outcome was framed as a bonus, and the other in which bad outcomes were emphasized as losses. Like humans, the monkeys displayed a strong preference for the first option, and like humans, the monkeys seemed to weigh the losses more heavily than comparable gains.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 10:36 PM CT

Chemists Assuring Quality Of Tequila

Chemists Assuring Quality Of Tequila
Whether you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo or just having another relaxing day in Margaritaville, you might one day thank a chemist for assuring the authenticity of your tequila. New tests developed by scientists in Mexico and Germany will help distinguish the real thing from fraudulent versions, which are a potential threat as this alcoholic beverage grows in popularity.

The findings could help provide a "shot" of quality assurance to the estimated billion-dollar tequila market, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled to appear in the June 14 issue of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

But there's no reason for consumers to panic, the researchers say. "Tequila is one of the best regulated spirits in the world with strict Mexican standards and labeling regulations," says study leader Dirk Lachenmeier, Ph.D., a chemist with Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt Karlsruhe (Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory of Karlsruhe) in Germany. Thanks to advancements in chemistry, the quality of this ancient Mexican beverage can now be protected.

Tequila is made from the blue Agave plant and its production is limited to certain geographic areas, primarily to the state of Jalisco in West-Central Mexico. Although it is subject to strict production standards and labeling regulations, adulterated samples have occasionally been reported, the researchers say. The exact percentage of fraudulent samples on the market is unknown, they add.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 10:28 PM CT

Inhibiting Cell Process To Boost Cancer Drug

Inhibiting Cell Process To Boost Cancer Drug
A molecule that interferes with the internal scaffolding that shapes the cell may kill cancer cells, retard the growth of tumors and give a boost to a common chemotherapy drug, as per findings appearing in the May 3 issue of the European Journal of Cancer.

Eventhough tumor growth depends on the rapid cell division and mobility of cancer cells -- processes highly dependent on the cytoskeleton -- the cytoskeleton has not been a target in treating cancer, said Primal de Lanerolle, professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and principal author of the study.

The scientists found that ML-7, which inhibits an enzyme called myosin light chain kinase, which is important to the structure and dynamics of the cytoskeleton, induces cell suicide, or apoptosis, in cultured breast and prostate cancer cell lines. In addition, therapy with ML-7 in combination with etoposide, a chemotherapy drug used to treat solid tumors, enhanced the ability of etoposide to kill cancer cells.

In animal models, ML-7 retarded growth of breast cancer and prostate cancer tumors. The combination of ML-7 and etoposide reduced tumor growth by 88.5 percent for the breast cancer tumors and by 79.1 percent in the prostate cancer tumors compared to controls.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 0:37 AM CT

Diuretic May Not Be Best Way To Reduce Chf

Diuretic May Not Be Best Way To Reduce Chf
Scientists believe they may have identified a new agent to reduce the excess fluid build-up in patients with congestive heart failure, one that avoids the relative sodium-depleting effects of diuretics, now the most usually used drugs for this purpose.

The drug under investigation, called lixivaptan, appears to be just as effective as a diuretic in helping patients get rid of excess water and has the added benefit of retaining proper levels of sodium in the body, said Dr. William Abraham, director of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University Medical Center and lead author of a study of this drug.

The study results are reported in the April 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Abraham will also serve as the international principal investigator of an upcoming multicenter Phase 3 trial to further evaluate the effectiveness of the drug.

Diuretics become part of life for a number of patients with congestive heart failure, a disease characterized by fluid retention that can lead to shortness of breath, swollen legs and ankles, and progressive weakening of the heart. Though they are key to reducing fluid, diuretics can cause the kidneys to excrete more sodium than water, which can have damaging effects. An abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood leads to another chronic condition called hyponatremia, which can slow thinking and cause memory problems, and indicates a poor prognosis for patients with heart failure.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 0:28 AM CT

Neighborhood Safety May Play Role In Obesity

Neighborhood Safety May Play Role In Obesity
Mothers of young children are more likely to be obese when they perceive their neighborhoods as unsafe, as per a new study in the journal Obesity.

Scientists from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Mathematica Policy Research and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed perceived neighborhood safety and obesity in women with young children. Connection with one's neighbors, characterized as neighborhood cohesion, did not have a significant relation to the mother's obesity.

"The characteristics of neighborhoods can influence how and where people spend their time, and unsafe neighborhoods are often thought to contribute to the obesity epidemic by decreasing outdoor activity," said study leader Hillary Burdette, M.D., a pediatrician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Despite a hypothesized link between neighborhood safety and obesity, this was the first study to evaluate this association among adults."

Using data collected in 20 large U.S. cities in 15 states for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, scientists focused on 2400 women with preschool children and found that mothers who perceived their neighborhoods to be safer had a lower body mass index (BMI) and were less likely to be obese, even after accounting for multiple measures of socioeconomic status. The percentage of mothers who were obese increased from 37 percent in the safest neighborhoods to 46 percent in the least safe neighborhoods.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 0:25 AM CT

Targeted Virus Eat Cancer Cells

Targeted Virus Eat Cancer Cells
An engineered virus tracks down and infects the most common and deadly form of brain cancer and then kills tumor cells by forcing them to devour themselves, scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The modified adenovirus homed in on cancerous glioma cells in mice and induced enough self-cannibalization among the cancer cells -- a process called autophagy -- to reduce tumor size and extend survival, says senior author Seiji Kondo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at M. D. Anderson.

''This virus uses telomerase, an enzyme found in 80 percent of brain tumors, as a target,'' Kondo says. ''Once the virus enters the cell, it needs telomerase to replicate. Normal brain tissue does not have telomerase, so this virus replicates only in cancer cells.''.

Other cancers are telomerase-positive, and the scientists showed in lab experiments that the virus kills human prostate and human cervical cancer cells while sparing normal tissue.

In addition to demonstrating the therapeutic potential of the virus, called hTERT-Ad, Kondo says the international research team also clarified the mechanism by which such conditionally replicating adenoviruses (CRAs) infect and kill cancer cells.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 0:19 AM CT

Incarcerated Women More Likely To Use Birth Control Pills

Incarcerated Women More Likely To Use Birth Control Pills
Women who are incarcerated are much more likely to start using birth control when it is offered to them in prison than through community health services after their release, as per a research studyby scientists at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School. The results are published in the recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study is significant because incarcerated women who are released into the community are at high risk for unplanned pregnancies, as well as medical complications to the mother and baby from alcohol and drug use.

"Women are accessing birth control services when they're made available in correctional institutions, and we should be making those services available throughout the country," says lead author Jennifer Clarke, MD, MPH, an internist at Rhode Island Hospital and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RI DOC), and an assistant professor of medicine at Brown Medical School. "If we want to help empower women in their recovery from drugs and alcohol, for example, we need to give them the tools so they can plan their pregnancy during a time when they're more stable".

The study found that women overall were 14 times more likely to start using birth control when it was offered in prison. Thirty-nine percent of incarcerated women started birth control when it was offered before their release, while only 4 percent took advantage of free birth control offered at a community health center after their release.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

May 3, 2006, 0:14 AM CT

Heart Risks From Vioxx Happen Much Earlier Than Believed

Heart Risks From Vioxx Happen Much Earlier Than Believed
A new study led by Queen's University researcher Linda Levesque shows that heart attacks correlation to the use of Vioxx - a drug once popular for the therapy of pain and inflammation - can occur within the first two weeks of use.

A quarter of patients who suffered a heart attack while taking Vioxx did so within the first two weeks of their first Vioxx prescription, says Prof. Levesque, of Queen's Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. "This demonstrates that cardiovascular risks from taking Vioxx may occur much earlier than previously believed."

Conducted with McGill University scientists James Brophy and Bin Zhang, the findings will be published on-line May 2 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Our prior study on COX-2 inhibitors, which included Vioxx and Celebrex, evaluated whether there was an increased risk of heart attack while taking these medications; the answer was yes for Vioxx," explains Prof. Levesque. In the current study, funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the pattern of cardiovascular risk in Quebec seniors was assessed over a three-year period.

The additional cardiovascular risk actually decreased with longer duration of use, suggesting that the period of highest susceptibility for most people taking Vioxx may occur earlier than previously believed. The study also documents that cardiovascular risk returns to normal within one month of stopping the drug.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source

May 2, 2006, 7:19 AM CT

Biomarker For Persistent Fatigue From Breast Cancer

Biomarker For Persistent Fatigue From Breast Cancer
Wouldn't it be nice to know in advance if you would develop long-term persistent fatigue from chemotherapy for breast cancer, so that an informed decision can be made previous to taking chemotherapy? Thanks to the finding of some of the scientists this may be possible in future.

Dr. Michael Irwin of the University of California, Los Angeles' Semel Institute and his colleagues have discovered a biological marker to identify breast cancer survivors at risk for long-term persistent fatigue. It is estimated that about one third of breast cancer survivors experience disabling fatigue that lasts for years.

Breast cancer survivors who suffer from persistent, disabling fatigue may have immune systems that don't shut down following therapy. Dr. Irwin says that this newly discovered biomarker could identify and predict which women would develop long-term persistent fatigue. Currently we have no available therapy for cancer related fatigue. Dr. Irwin hopes that this finding will lead to development of drugs that would one day be used to treat persistent fatigue among breast cancer survivors.

The study included blood samples from 32 breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue and this was compared to blood samples from 18 breast cancer survivors who did not suffer from fatigue.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink

May 2, 2006, 0:28 AM CT

Obesity Levels In Us Are Grossly Underestimated

Obesity Levels In Us Are Grossly Underestimated
The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. states has been greatly underestimated. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) analyzed data from health surveys, which are used to estimate obesity levels in states. Because people tend to provide incorrect information about their weight and height, particularly in telephone surveys, the scientists concluded that estimates of obesity in individual states have been too low, by more than 50%. Their study, which corrects for misreporting in those surveys, appears in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality, causing some 2.6 million deaths worldwide each year. In the U.S., survey data on obesity on a national and state level is obtained using information gathered by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which uses telephone interviews; national data is also collected using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which does in-person interviews and follow-up height and weight measurements on people who agree to a clinical exam. Lead author Majid Ezzati, Associate Professor of International Health at HSPH, and colleagues analyzed and compared the data from the two surveys in order to quantify the level of bias when people self-report their height and weight, particularly in a telephone interview.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Archives of health news blog

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