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August 28, 2006, 10:02 PM CT

A switch between life and death

A switch between life and death
Cells in an embryo divide at an amazing rate to build a whole body, but this growth needs to be controlled. Otherwise the result may be defects in embryonic development or cancer in adults. Controlling growth requires that some cells divide while others die; their fates are determined by signals that are passed from molecule to molecule within the cell. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] in Heidelberg have now discovered how one of these signaling pathways controls the life and death of cells in the fruit fly. The study will be published in this week's issue of the journal Cell.

The breakthrough came as Barry Thompson from Stephen Cohen's group at EMBL looked at a recently discovered signaling pathway called Hippo.

"Hippo acts as a switch between cell division and death," says Barry Thompson, "if the pathway is too active, tissues overgrow because too a number of cells divide and too few die. But until now, we hadn't found a correlation between the signals and the cellular machinery that drives growth."

Using sophisticated genetic techniques, Thompson and Cohen established that a small molecule, a microRNA called bantam, makes this link. Without bantam, tissues grow too slowly and remain smaller than normal. The amount of bantam produced by the cell directly depends on the amount of traffic on the Hippo signaling pathway, and higher levels of bantam prompt more cell division.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


August 27, 2006, 7:40 PM CT

High Levels Of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

High Levels Of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
Alcohol consumption in Western Europe is generally considered to be more moderate in nature - daily, and with meals - than it is in other countries such as the United States. New research indicates that this may be an "urban myth," and that drinking levels in Italy - as measured by the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Italian primary schools - are just as high as they are in the new world.

Results are reported in the recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Both human and animal studies have shown that heavy and binge drinking are the most highly linked to FAS damage," said Philip A. May, professor of sociology, and family and community medicine, at The University of New Mexico. "A common perception is that daily drinking with meals is less damaging to the fetus, and that this drinking pattern is the norm in Western Europe. While we have not yet untangled or answered this relationship, our study results do show that there are individuals in Italy who drink heavily enough to produce a rate of FAS which needs our attention." May, also an epidemiologist, is the study's corresponding author.

"Previous to this study," said Robert J. Sokol, distinguished professor of obstetrics and gynecology and Director of the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development at Wayne State University, "I don't believe there was a good number for prevalence of FAS in Italy. This says Italy looks like the rest of the world in terms of drinking patterns, and that related birth outcomes are similar amongst the relatively heavily exposed kids."........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


August 24, 2006, 10:23 PM CT

NSAIDs and congenital anomalies

NSAIDs and congenital anomalies
Women who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) early in their pregnancies may be more likely to give birth to babies with congenital defects, especially cardiac septal defects. These are the findings of a case-control study reported in the recent issue of Birth Defects Research Part B, a journal published by John Wiley & Sons. The article is also available online via Wiley Interscience (
A number of pregnant women get prescriptions for NSAIDs during their first trimester, and even more--up to 15 percent--take over-the-counter versions of these drugs. Prior studies have shown that taking NSAIDs toward the end of a pregnancy can cause certain circulatory problems--premature closure of the ductus arteriosus and patent ductus arteriosus, but the risks correlation to early-pregnancy ingestion are less well defined.

To better understand the relationship between first trimester use of NSAIDs and congenital birth defects, scientists led by Anick Berard, Ph.D. of St. Justine Hospital in Montreal, conducted a population-based case-control study. They gathered information from three administrative databases in Quebec and included 36,387 pregnant women in their study. They determined which women had filled prescriptions for NSAIDs during their first trimester and which had babies diagnosed with a congenital abnormality in the first year of life. Based on information from prior studies, the primary outcome of interest was cardiac septal closure and related abnormalities.........

Posted by: Emily      
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August 8, 2006, 8:42 PM CT

Nutrition's Role In Genes And Birth Defects

Nutrition's Role In Genes And Birth Defects
Expectant mothers may someday get a personalized menu of foods to eat during pregnancy to complement their genetic makeup as a result of new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Scientists used transparent fish embryos to develop a way to discover how genes and diet interact to cause birth defects.

"By the time most women know they are pregnant, the development of the fetus' organs is essentially complete," said Bryce Mendelsohn, co-author and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine. "Since we currently do not understand the interaction between genetics and nutrition, the goal of this research was to understand how the lack of a specific nutrient, in this case copper, interacts with an embryo's genetics during early development."

Mendelsohn is doing the research in the laboratory of Jonathan D. Gitlin, M.D., the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, director of genetics and genomic medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital and scientific director of the Children's Discovery Institute.

Mendelsohn and collaborators Stephen L. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics at the School of Medicine, and graduate student Chunyue Yin, working with Lila Solnica-Krezel, associate professor of biology at Vanderbilt University, studied the impact of copper metabolism on the development of zebrafish, a vertebrate that develops similarly to humans. Zebrafish have become staples of genetic research because the transparent embryos grow outside of the mother's body, which allows development to be easily observed.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


August 4, 2006, 0:24 AM CT

Miscarriage Associated With Age

Miscarriage Associated With Age
In a study conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the New York Psychiatric Institute scientists observed that increasing paternal age is significantly linked to increased rates of spontaneous abortion, a pregnancy loss occurring before twenty weeks of gestation. Results indicate that as the male partner ages there is a steady increase in rate of miscarriage. Women with partners aged 35 or older had nearly three times as a number of miscarriages as compared with women conceiving with men younger than 25 years of age. This finding is independent of the woman's age and not explained by other factors such as diabetes, smoking, or prior spontaneous abortions, and adds to the growing realization of the importance of paternal characteristics for successful reproductive outcome.

"There has been a tremendous amount of research on women, and how their characteristics affect pregnancy outcomes. Of course, women's importance and centrality to pregnancy cannot be overstated. However, researchers seem to have forgotten that men are equal partners in reproduction, and their influence should be studied to the same degree. Our group has focused on men's influence on the health of their offspring, and we have made some fascinating discoveries," said Karine Kleinhaus, MD, MPH currently in Columbia's Department of Psychiatry and first author of the study. "This study shows how a man's age affects the likelihood of miscarriage." .........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


July 28, 2006, 9:26 PM CT

Steroid Osteoporosis Connection

Steroid Osteoporosis Connection
Scientists are closing in on the solution to a persistent medical puzzle: why do high doses of cortisone, widely prescribed for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, weaken bones?

Through studies of mice, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have now identified osteoclasts, cells that dismantle old bone, as the essential link between osteoporosis and cortisone. As scientists flesh out the molecular-level details of this connection, they may be able to identify targets for therapy to prevent cortisone's damaging side effects on bone.

"High-dose cortisone is the second most common cause of osteoporosis, and we currently have no real treatment for this serious side effect," says senior author Steven L. Teitelbaum, M.D., Messing Professor of Pathology and Immunology. "Given how frequently these drugs are used to treat many different conditions, that's a major clinical problem".

Teitelbaum and colleagues including lead author Hyun-Ju Kim, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, publish their results in the recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Cortisone is a steroid produced naturally by the adrenal gland and synthesized by a number of pharmaceutical companies for clinical use. The drug is also used to treat lupus, multiple sclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it is prescribed to transplant patients to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


July 26, 2006, 5:42 PM CT

Regular Multivitamin Use Near Time Of Conception

Regular Multivitamin Use Near Time Of Conception
Pittsburgh, July 26 Women who are considering becoming pregnant may significantly reduce their risk of developing a common life-threatening complication called preeclampsia by taking a multivitamin supplement regularly three months before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. This finding is being reported in a University of Pittsburgh study available online now through an "advance access" feature of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The paper is scheduled for publication in the Sept. 1 print issue of the journal.

Overall, women who used multivitamins regularly showed a 45 percent reduction in preeclampsia risk, as per the study. However, results were even more remarkable for women who were not overweight previous to pregnancy.

"Our data show that women who are not overweight before pregnancy and who used multivitamins at least once a week before conception and in the first three months of pregnancy reduced their risk of preeclampsia by a striking 72 percent in comparison to those who didn't take a multivitamin during this time period," said Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). "At this time, multivitamin use makes little apparent difference in preeclampsia rates for women who are overweight before pregnancy. Even so, the results suggest that regular multivitamin use in the pre-pregnancy period may help to prevent preeclampsia".........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


July 25, 2006, 8:20 PM CT

Screen New mothers for postpartum depression

Screen New mothers for postpartum depression
Physicians should screen mothers for postpartum depression regularly for at least a year following childbirth to better identify women who develop symptoms throughout the year and those whose depression persists, University of Rochester Medical Center scientists say.

"If you only screen early or if you only screen once, you will miss some," said Linda Chaudron, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical Center who is leading a series of studies focusing on postpartum depression.

In a recent analysis of records from a pediatric clinic that uses a common postpartum questionnaire to screen mothers, Chaudron and the research group observed that of women who scored high on a depression screening scale sometime in the postpartum year, 26 percent did not develop high symptom levels of postpartum depression until after three months and that 33 percent had high levels throughout the year. The results of the study are reported in the July/recent issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics.

"I was surprised at the high percentage of women who continued to be depressed throughout the year," Chaudron said.

Earlier this year, New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine signed legislation requiring health care professionals providing postnatal care to screen new mothers for postpartum depression, and requiring health care professionals to educate women and their families about the disorder. Health care providers in several other states have adopted similar screening programs.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source


July 12, 2006, 5:51 PM CT

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
The ovaries are two small organs, one on each side of a woman's uterus. A woman's ovaries have follicles, which are tiny sacs filled with liquid that hold the eggs. These sacs are also called cysts. Each month about 20 eggs start to mature, but usually only one becomes dominant. As the one egg grows, the follicle accumulates fluid in it. When that egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release the egg so it can travel through the fallopian tube for fertilization. When the single egg leaves the follicle, ovulation takes place.

In women with PCOS, the ovary doesn't make all of the hormones it needs for any of the eggs to fully mature. They may start to grow and accumulate fluid. But no one egg becomes large enough. Instead, some may remain as cysts. Since no egg matures or is released, ovulation does not occur and the hormone progesterone is not made. Without progesterone, a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or absent. Also, the cysts produce male hormones, which continue to prevent ovulation. ........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink


July 12, 2006, 7:26 AM CT

Physical activity does not protect from ovarian cancer

Physical activity does not protect from ovarian cancer
There are several benefits to a regular exercise program. It keeps you fit, it prevents heart attack, and it protects you from breast cancer. But the benefits of exercise do not extend to the field of ovarian cancer.

A new research has found that exercise programs do not protect women from developing ovarian cancer. This is as per reports published in International Journal of Cancer.

"However, despite not protecting for ovarian cancer, physical activity has so many other positive health effects that women should be encouraged to exercise daily, if possible," study chief Dr. Elisabete Weiderpass from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm emphasized in comments to Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues assessed associations between physical activity during different periods of life and ovarian cancer incidence in roughly 96,000 women from Norway and Sweden who were followed for more than a decade.

"We asked the women how much they exercised at ages 14, 30 and between ages 30 and 50 year," Weiderpass said.

A total of 264 women developed ovarian cancer during the time they were followed.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
The addition of testosterone to hormone therapy in women after menopause enhances their sexual function. However, it may also reduce HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) in women, according to a systematic review of current evidence."If the reduction in HDL had been associated with an increase in triglycerides [fatty acids] or LDL cholesterol it would be of great concern," said Dr. Susan Davis, professor of medicine at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and study co-author "However, as an isolated finding the significance is difficult to interpret." She added, "Testosterone has not been found to alter other coronary heart disease risk factors.".

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