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October 30, 2006, 8:34 PM CT

Staph Vaccine Shows Promise

Staph Vaccine Shows Promise Staphylococcus aureus
By combining four proteins of Staphylococcus aureus that individually generated the strongest immune response in mice, researchers have created a vaccine that significantly protects the animals from diverse strains of the bacterium that cause disease in humans. A report describing the University of Chicago study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health, appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This finding represents a promising step toward identifying potential components to combine into a vaccine designed for people at high risk of invasive S. aureus infection," notes Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director.

S. aureus, the most common agent of hospital-acquired infection, is the leading cause of bloodstream, lower respiratory tract and skin infections. These infections can result in a variety of illnesses, including endocarditis (inflammation of the heart), toxic-shock syndrome and food poisoning.

Research in S. aureus has taken on new urgency: In the past few decades, the bacterium has developed resistance to traditional antibiotics, thus allowing infections to spread throughout the body of the infected individual despite therapy. More recently, healthy people with no apparent risk factors have been infected by novel and extremely virulent strains of S. aureus acquired from community rather than hospital sources.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


October 30, 2006, 8:29 PM CT

3-D ultrasound and robotic surgery

3-D ultrasound and robotic surgery Image courtesy of Cleveland Clinic
Duke University engineers have shown that a three-dimensional ultrasound scanner they developed can successfully guide a surgical robot.

The scanner could find application in various medical settings, as per the researchers. They said the scanner ultimately might enable surgeries to be performed without surgeons, a capability that could prove valuable in space stations or other remote locations.

"It's the first time, to our knowledge, that anyone has used the information in a 3-D ultrasound scan to actually guide a robot," said Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Smith and Eric Pua, a Pratt graduate student who participated in the research, reported the findings in the cover article of the November 2006 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control http://www.ieee-uffc.org/tr/covers/2006toc.htm#nov06

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

In their demonstration, the scientists used 3-D ultrasound images to pinpoint in real time the exact location of targets in a simulated surgical procedure. That spatial information then guided a robotically controlled surgical instrument right to its mark.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


October 29, 2006, 6:45 PM CT

Switch Involved In Allergy

Switch Involved In Allergy
A research team has identified a key enzyme responsible for triggering a chain of events that results in allergic reaction, as per new study findings published online this week in Nature Immunology.

The work by scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University, the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York sets the stage for development of new strategies and target therapies that control allergic disease the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States.

Allergic diseases such as asthma and hay fever are problematic for about 30 percent of the population in the developed world. Scientists have developed various therapys to control allergy, but no cure has been found.

The team has demonstrated, for the first time, the role of a proteolytic enzyme called ADAM10 that releases a major allergy regulatory protein from the surface of cells and thereby promotes a stronger allergic response. The identification of drugs that inhibit ADAM10's ability to release this molecule could revolutionize therapy of asthma and allergic disease.

"Our research, for the first time, may represent a therapy strategy to prevent, rather than simply control IgE-mediated allergy," said Daniel Conrad, Ph.D., a professor in VCU's Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Conrad directed the research conducted at VCU. IgE is an antibody known to trigger Type I allergic disease.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 27, 2006, 4:43 AM CT

Gene Target Against Crohn's Disease And Ulcerative Colitis

Gene Target Against Crohn's Disease And Ulcerative Colitis
The discovery by a six-member Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Genetics Consortium of a genetic risk factor for IBD has been reported in Science Express, the online publication of the journal Science. As per one of the Canadian principal investigators, director of the Laboratory in Genetics and Genomic Medicine of Inflammation at the Montreal Heart Institute, Dr. John D. Rioux, "This discovery may lead to a paradigm shift in our thinking from 'genetics of diseases to genetics of health', especially as concerns Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis." This discovery was, in part, due to the contributions of the gastroenterologists of the Quebec IBD Genetics Consortium led by Dr. Rioux and Dr. Alain Bitton of the McGill University Health Centre.

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, describes two similar yet distinct conditions called Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases affect the digestive system and cause the intestinal tissue to become inflamed, form sores and bleed easily. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue and diarrhea.

Crohn's disease may affect the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, and while Crohn's disease can not be cured by drugs or surgery, either may relieve symptoms.

In Canada, an estimated 170,000 Canadian men and women suffer from IBD, most frequently between the ages of 15-25, or 45-55. It is especially difficult for children and young adults since it often affects a person's self-concept. IBD is found throughout the world. However, it appears to be most common in North America and northern Europe; Canada having one of the highest incidence rates of IBD in the world. (1) In the U.S., more than 1 million Americans have Crohn's or colitis.........

Posted by: Sue      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 6:08 PM CT

Electronic Chip Interacting With The Brain

Electronic Chip Interacting With The Brain
Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) are working on an implantable electronic chip that may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement. Their most recent study, would be reported in the Nov. 2, 2006, edition of Nature, showed such a device can induce brain changes in monkeys lasting more than a week. Strengthening of weak connections through this mechanism may have potential in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries, stroke, or paralysis.

The authors of study, titled "Long-Term Motor Cortex Plasticity Induced by an Electronic Neural Implant," were Dr. Andrew Jackson, senior research fellow in physiology and biophysics, Dr. Jaideep Mavoori, who recently earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the UW, and Dr. Eberhard Fetz, professor of physiology and biophysics. For a number of years Fetz and colleagues have studied how the brains of monkeys control their limb muscles.

When awake, the brain continuously governs the body's voluntary movements. This is largely done through the activity of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the motor cortex. These nerve cells, or neurons, send signals down to the spinal cord to control the contraction of certain muscles, like those in the arms and legs.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 6:03 PM CT

New Treatment For Obsessive-compulsive Disorders

New Treatment For Obsessive-compulsive Disorders
In a paper published on-line in advance of publication in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) Program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, reports the surprising finding that the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) medication, paroxetine, is effective in treating patients with compulsive hoarding syndrome.

The study of 79 patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 32 of them with compulsive hoarding syndrome suggests that further controlled trials of SRI medications for compulsive hoarding are now warranted.

Compulsive hoarding, which may affect up to 2 million people in the United States, is found in people with many diseases, including anorexia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It is most often found in patients with OCD, though researchers are not yet sure if it is a subtype of OCD or a separate disorder.

In previous, retrospective studies looking at patients and data from past drug trials compulsive hoarding had been associated with poor response to SRI medications commonly used to treat OCD patients. However, no previous study had ever directly tested this widely held theory. Saxena's prospective study, comparing the hoarding and non-hoarding OCD patients, showed nearly identical responses to paroxetine (commonly known as Paxil.) The symptoms exhibited by patients in both groups improved significantly with treatment.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 5:54 PM CT

Predicting Risk for Recurrent Stroke

Predicting Risk for Recurrent Stroke
People who have just suffered their first ischemic stroke, a blood clot in the brain, often have elevated inflammatory biomarkers in their blood that indicate their likelihood of having another stroke or an increased risk of dying, as per Columbia University Medical Center scientists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Reported in the Oct. 23 Archives of Internal Medicine, results of the new study indicate that these inflammatory markers are linked to long-term prognosis after a first stroke, and may help guide clinical care for people who have suffered a first stroke.

A biomarker called lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2), which has been FDA-approved to predict the risk of first stroke, was found to be a strong predictor of recurrent stroke risk. Scientists also observed that elevated levels of another biomarker called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a test usually used to predict risk of heart disease, was linked to more severe strokes and an increased risk of mortality.

"A better understanding of biomarkers for stroke risk may lead to the use of prophylactic therapys to reduce risk of people suffering debilitating strokes," said lead author Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., associate professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian. "For example, statins appear to lower these biomarker levels, so our next step may be to study the clinical benefit of prescribing statins to reduce the risk of stroke in people with elevated biomarkers, and also to treat people who have suffered a stroke so that they do not have another serious event".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 22, 2006, 11:15 PM CT

Genes And Perception Of Pain

Genes And Perception Of Pain
A new NIH-funded study shows that a specific gene variant in humans affects both sensitivity to short-term (acute) pain in healthy volunteers and the risk of developing chronic pain after one kind of back surgery. Blocking increased activity of this gene after nerve injury or inflammation in animals prevented development of chronic pain.

The gene in this study, GCH1, codes for an enzyme called GTP cyclohydrolase. The study suggests that inhibiting GTP cyclohydrolase activity might help to prevent or treat chronic pain, which affects as a number of as 50 million people in the United States. Doctors also may be able to screen people for the gene variant to predict their risk of chronic post-surgical pain before they undergo surgery. The results appear in the October 22, 2006, advance online publication of Nature Medicine.*.

"This is a completely new pathway that contributes to the development of pain," says Clifford J. Woolf, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research. "The study shows that we inherit the extent to which we feel pain, both under normal conditions and after damage to the nervous system." .

Dr. Woolf carried out the study in collaboration with Mitchell B. Max, M.D., of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues at the National Institute on Alcoholism Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and elsewhere. Dr. Woolf's work was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The research team also received funding from NIDCR, NIAAA, and other organizations.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 22, 2006, 8:46 PM CT

Portable 'lab on a chip'

Portable 'lab on a chip' This micropump allows high speed flows through microchannels with an input of only a few volts of electricity.
Testing soldiers to see if they have been exposed to biological or chemical weapons could soon be much faster and easier, thanks to MIT scientists who are helping to develop a tiny diagnostic device that could be carried into battle.

By tweaking the design of a tiny pump, scientists affiliated with MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies have taken a major step towards making an existing miniature "lab on a chip" fully portable, so the tiny device can perform hundreds of chemical experiments in any setting.

"In the same way that miniaturization led to a revolution in computing, the idea is that miniature laboratories of fluid being pumped from one channel to another, with reactions going on here and there, can revolutionize biology and chemistry," says Martin Bazant, associate professor of applied mathematics and leader of the research team.

Within the lab on a chip, biological fluids such as blood are pumped through channels about 10 microns, or millionths of a meter, wide. (A red blood cell is about 8 microns in diameter.) Each channel has its own pumps, which direct the fluids to certain areas of the chip so they can be tested for the presence of specific molecules.

Until now, researchers have been limited to two approaches to designing labs on a chip, neither of which offer portability. The first is to mechanically force fluid through microchannels, but this requires bulky external plumbing and scales poorly with miniaturization.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


October 22, 2006, 8:12 PM CT

Heart Surgery For Atrial Fibrillation Simplified

Heart Surgery For Atrial Fibrillation Simplified
Heart surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have helped usher in a new era in the surgical therapy of atrial fibrillation. Using radiofrequency devices - rather than a scalpel - they've greatly shortened the surgery and made it significantly easier to perform.

"Because of the devices, the procedure - called the Cox-Maze procedure - has gone from an operation that hardly anyone was doing to one that 80 to 90 percent of U.S. heart surgeons are now performing," says Ralph J. Damiano Jr., M.D., the John Shoenberg Professor of Surgery and chief of cardiac surgery at the School of Medicine and a cardiac surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Adults older than 40 have a 25 percent risk of eventually developing atrial fibrillation in which the upper chambers of the heart twitch rapidly instead of contracting fully and regularly. The condition can lead to stroke or heart failure.

For some patients, medications can control the abnormal heart rhythms and the risk of clotting linked to atrial fibrillation, but they do not cure the disorder. The Cox-Maze procedure has a greater than 90 percent cure rate.

Damiano and colleagues have played a vital role in the development and testing of radiofrequency devices for treating atrial fibrillation. The devices deliver high-energy radiofrequency waves to heart tissue and very quickly create scars or ablations, which replace most of the complex incisions mandatory by the Cox-Maze procedure. The ablations disrupt the atria's abnormal electrical activity and normalize heart rhythm.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Yale have brought to light a mechanism that regulates the way an internal organelle, the Golgi apparatus, duplicates as cells prepare to divide, according to a report in Science Express.Graham Warren, professor of cell biology, and colleagues at Yale study Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes Sleeping Sickness. Like a number of parasites, it is exceptionally streamlined and has only one of each internal organelle, making it ideal for studying processes of more complex organisms that have a number of copies in each cell.

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