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June 21, 2006, 10:47 PM CT

Alzheimer's Disease: Searching For A Cure

Alzheimer's Disease: Searching For A Cure Healthy nerve cells in the brain (neurons) have support structures called microtubules, which guide nutrients and molecules from the cell's body down to the ends and back. A special kind of protein, tau, makes the microtubules stable. Tau is changed chemically in people with Alzheimer's disease. It begins to pair with other threads of tau and they become tangled up together. When this happens, the microtubules disintegrate, collapsing the neuron's transport system. This may result first in communication malfunctions between neurons and later in cell death.
It was 1997 when an alarm went off in Vivian Freed's head. She knew something was wrong with her 85-year old mother, who had always planned her trip to celebrate Thanksgiving with her children down to the last detail. But that year, she got the airline tickets for the wrong days. Freed also found out that her mother had been missing doctors' appointments and social engagements, so she flew from her home in Rockville, Md., to her mother's home in Florida to check on her.

"Everything that she had done perfectly before was a mess," says Freed. The bills weren't paid, and the medications that her mother had been giving to her ailing father weren't right. "We realized we needed to do something," says Freed, after a doctor diagnosed her mother with Alzheimer's disease.

Freed's sister, Annette Heller, later "adult-napped" her parents and moved them to Maryland under the pretense of just visiting." They didn't really notice that she was packing up more things than they would need for just a visit," says Freed.

Her parents were fiercely independent and would have objected to moving. "It would have been much nicer to give them closure, but it wasn't possible," Freed says.

Not long after Freed moved her parents into an assisted living facility in Maryland, her father passed away. "The day after he died, Mom remembered what happened, but never did again," she says. "Mom kept asking, 'Where's Daddy?'".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink

June 21, 2006, 10:25 PM CT

Dancing Science

Dancing Science As Ferocious Beauty: Genome draws to a close, the dancers swirl, surrounded by deep blues, stark whites, and the sounds of the sea—symbolic of their species' origin.
Emily Jacobs-Palmer finds some of today's political and social attitudes toward science appalling. "I want to live in a world that respects scientists and values our work," says the molecular biology and biochemistry major, a senior at Wesleyan University. To create such a world, however, Jacobs-Palmer believes science must become more accessible-more comprehensible and interesting-to the general public.

It never occurred to her that one path to that goal might be through dance. Then she met Liz Lerman, winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award and founder of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. Lerman was spending the year as an artist-in-residence at Wesleyan, while she choreographed Ferocious Beauty: Genome, a dance about the human genome.

One of Lerman's artist-in-residency projects was an HHMI-supported symposium on science and dance, in which Jacobs-Palmer participated. "Before that, the last way I would have thought to present science to the public was through dance," Jacobs-Palmer remarks.

Wesleyan, a small, private university in Middletown, Connecticut, led in commissioning the genome dance project after Pam Tatge, director of the university's Center for the Arts, saw Lerman's troupe perform. Lerman, known for her choreography of political and social issues and her intergenerational troupe of dancers, mentioned her desire to do a dance based on the human genome. So Tatge introduced her to Laura Grabel, a professor of biology who was then dean of natural sciences and mathematics at Wesleyan. Grabel danced professionally herself while she was in graduate school and as a postdoctoral fellow, and she was intrigued by the idea of using dance to communicate science to the public.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 10:14 PM CT

First Herpes Vaccine Under Study

First Herpes Vaccine Under Study
The first vaccine for genital herpes, a contagious infection affecting nearly one in five Americans, is under study in women.

The Medical College of Georgia is among study sites in 28 states studying the vaccine in approximately 7,500 women age 18 to 30 who have not been exposed to herpes simplex type 2, the cause of the genital infection, or herpes simplex type 1, which causes common fever blisters.

"It's very debilitating, not only physically, but emotionally," says Dr. Daron G. Ferris, family medicine physician, director of the MCG Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Center and a principal investigator. "We hope this vaccine can help women avoid this lifelong infection".

Prior research, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed the vaccine works best in women who had not been exposed to either herpes strain and that it was not effective in men.

Antiviral agents on the market suppress outbreaks of the virus but don't stop disease transmission, Dr. Ferris says. "There is no cure for herpes. People do shed herpes asymptomatically so, even if they do not have an outbreak, they can share herpes, for example, in vaginal secretions or urine".

While the infection can be a lifelong, life-changing problem for adults, it can be deadly for babies, he says. Babies are delivered by Caesarean section if the mother is known to have an active type 2 herpes infection.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 10:11 PM CT

Herbal Therapies For Cancer

Herbal Therapies For Cancer
Whether herbal supplements can help cancer patients avoid common problems such as fatigue and sleeplessness is under study at the Medical College of Georgia.

Ginseng, a perennial found in North America and eastern Asia touted as a safe way to improve the body's stress resistance, is being tested for its potential in battling common fatigue.

Valerian, a flowering perennial from Eurasia widely used as a sedative, is being studied for its potential in helping cancer patients sleep.

"These are some of our quality of life trials to help cancer patients with side effects of their disease and therapy," says Dr. Daron G. Ferris, director of the MCG Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Center and a principal investigator. "Almost every cancer patient has fatigue, for some reason. Both cancer and its therapy can have an effect on blood count and patients may become anemic. Others battle depression, which can also make them feel tired".

Thirty to 50 percent of cancer patients also have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, a common side effect of chemotherapy, says Darlene Gibson, research nurse.

While anecdotal evidence abounds about the effectiveness of these herbal therapies, scientific studies in animals or humans, especially those with cancer, are sparse, Dr. Ferris says. "A number of cancer patients look for 'natural,' non-traditional therapys. We are delighted to offer alternatives that a number of patients desire in a way that ensures the quality of the supplement and does not interfere with the patient's cancer therapy".........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 10:07 PM CT

Comparison Of Nicotine Lozenges And Patches

Comparison Of Nicotine Lozenges And Patches
A smoking-cessation study comparing the effectiveness of nicotine patches and lozenges is under way at the Medical College of Georgia.

Participants, who must be at least age 18 and smoke at least 10 cigarettes per day, will receive a 12-week supply of either replacement treatment as well as five counseling sessions.

Nicotine patches and lozenges are designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms but their effectiveness has not been compared, says Darlene Gibson, research nurse. "There are some people in whom lozenges are thought to work better because they need that immediate gratification, rather than just the constant release of patches," she says.

"The harmful effects from smoking tobacco products are well-known," says Dr. Daron G. Ferris, director of the MCG Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Center and a principal investigator. "However, kicking the habit can be challenging for a number of smokers. Nicotine replacement helps ease withdrawal symptoms when stopping cigarettes".

Participants will receive a smoking-reduction regimen with a targeted stop date after which they'll be randomized to get either patches or lozenges. They'll be followed for 27 weeks. Five free counseling sessions will help participants look at their lifestyle, why they smoke and ways to break the habit.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 9:59 PM CT

Parents Are Key To Babies Healthy Smiles

Parents Are Key To Babies Healthy Smiles
Parents are the key to good oral health for their children - even before the first baby teeth develop, Medical College of Georgia dentists say.

Dr. Steven Adair, an MCG pediatric dentist, says mothers should start ensuring their child's megawatt smile keeping their own mouths and teeth in good shape before and during pregnancy.

"The bacteria that cause cavities are generally passed from mother to child shortly after the child is born," says Dr. Adair. "If the mother takes care of her teeth by getting cavities filled and brushing on a regular basis, she can reduce the bacterial counts in her mouth and that may result in fewer bacteria being passed on to her baby".

Some research suggests that gum disease in the mother may even be a risk factor for premature and low birth-weight babies, he says.

Even though they don't have teeth, oral hygiene for infants should begin with their first meal.

"I advise parents to start oral cleanings after feedings in infancy with something like a soft washcloth or gauze wrapped around their finger to wipe the milk or formula out of the baby's mouth," Dr. Adair says. "It gets the baby used to the feeling of having his or her mouth cleaned after eating".

Children should never be put to bed with a bottle, unless it's filled with water.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 7:10 AM CT

Nutrition And Twin Pregnancies

Nutrition And  Twin Pregnancies
The commonly held view that IVF is the only culprit in the steady increase in the numbers of twins born over the past thirty years was challenged by a scientist speaking at the 22nd annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday 21 June 2006. Professor Robert Jansen, Medical Director of Sydney IVF, Sydney, Australia, said that his research had shown that improved nutrition, both maternal and in the lab in the case of IVF, had produced better and stronger embryos.

"Over the last 100 years, both in the UK and Australia, there has been an increase in identical twinning through the division of the embryo into two, even without IVF", he said, "and with the move to single embryo transfer with IVF this trend is obviously set to continue." Professor Jansen went on to say that the present rate of identical twinning with IVF is between one-in-a-hundred and one-in-fifty, a little over twice the rate involved when getting pregnant naturally.

Professor Jansen and his team reviewed Australian national birth statistics from 1920 to 2003 to determine the sex of babies at birth among multiple pregnancies. They found that the rate of dizygotic (DZ) twinning - where two embryos are involved and half the twins will be of different sex - was relatively constant from 1920 until the 1960s, but there was then the well-known dramatic increase with the advent of induced ovulation and IVF - reaching 300 in every 1000 IVF conceptions by 2000. Among monozygotic (MZ) twins, caused by embryo division (so all are of like sex), the excess rate of same-sex twins among natural conceptions has risen steadily for the last 80 years. MZ twins were relatively rare among IVF babies in the 1980s - much less than occurs naturally - but then rose in the nineties to reach 14 per 1000 by the year 2000.........

Posted by: Emily      Permalink         Source

June 21, 2006, 0:05 AM CT

A Warm Blanket Makes PET Scans More Accurate

A Warm Blanket Makes PET Scans More Accurate
Placing a warm blanket on patients undergoing PET/Computerized axial tomography scans to detect cancer makes the test more accurate, new Saint Louis University research finds.

In up to 9 percent of patients, doctors have difficulty interpreting scans because of the presence of brown adipose tissue, also known as brown fat, which may lead to a cancer misdiagnosis.

"This is a significant finding," says Medhat Osman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of nuclear medicine and PET director at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "It is a solution that not only is effective but low-cost and extremely easy for any PET facility to implement."

Osman says brown fat serves an important physiological role - it keeps the body warm in cold temperatures. But accumulations of the tracer that is used to identify malignancies during PET/Computerized axial tomography scans that appear in brown fat can mimic cancer - or even mask the appearance of cancer in areas such as the lymph nodes.

New research presented by Osman, co-author Scott Huston and other Saint Louis University Hospital researchers at the 2006 Society of Nuclear Medicine in San Diego this month suggests that covering patients with a heated blanket before the scan can reduce the brown fat uptake by 62 percent.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source

June 20, 2006, 8:49 PM CT

Animal Feeding Operations Near Schools

Animal Feeding Operations Near Schools
Children who attend school near large-scale livestock farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) may be at a higher risk for asthma, as per a new study by University of Iowa researchers.

The study, led by Joel Kline, M.D., professor of internal medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, appears in the recent issue of Chest, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (

"Prior research has shown increased rates of asthma among children living in rural areas of Iowa and the United States," said Kline, who also is deputy director of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC) in the UI College of Public Health, which helped fund the study. "Given that CAFOs release inflammatory substances that can affect the health of workers at these facilities and the air quality of nearby communities, we were interested in whether there was a correlation between CAFOs and increased rates of asthma among kids in rural areas."

Scientists surveyed the parents of kindergarten through fifth-grade students attending two Iowa elementary schools to compare the prevalence of asthma among students. The "study" school was located a half-mile from a CAFO in northeast Iowa; the "control" school was in east-central Iowa, more than 10 miles away from any CAFO (generally classified as a livestock facility that houses more than 3,500 animals). Sixty-one participants responded from the study school, and 248 participants responded from the control school.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source

June 19, 2006, 9:24 PM CT

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Posted by: Janet      Permalink

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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Archives of society medical news blog

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