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March 20, 2006, 7:48 PM CT

Researchers Find Fat Gene

Researchers Find Fat Gene
Rutgers scientists have identified a gene - and the molecular function of its protein product - that provides an important clue to further understanding obesity and may point the way to new drugs to control fat metabolism.

The researchers found that the human protein known as lipin is a key fat-regulating enzyme. "Lipin activity may be an important pharmaceutical target for the control of body fat in humans, treating conditions that range from obesity to the loss of fat beneath the skin, as seen in HIV patients, " said George M. Carman, a professor in Rutgers' department of food science.

In a paper published online by the Journal of Biological Chemistry (print version, April 7), Carman and his research team at Rutgers' Cook College describe their scientific detective work, moving from clue to clue in a series of logical connections to reach their discoveries.

Prior studies with mice showed that a lack of lipin causes a loss of body fat, whereas an excess of lipin promotes extra body fat. So scientists knew that lipin was involved in fat metabolism; they just didn't know how.

The Carman team's first revelation came with the discovery that lipin is an enzyme (phosphatidic acid phosphatase or PAP), a protein catalyst that is mandatory for the formation of fats - triglycerides, specifically.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


March 19, 2006, 8:05 PM CT

Scientist Highlights Bugs' Benefits

Scientist Highlights Bugs' Benefits
Bacteria are bad. Mothers and doctors, not to mention the cleaning product industry, repeatedly warn of their dangers. But a Stanford University School of Medicine microbiologist is raising the intriguing idea that persistent bacterial and viral infections have benefits.

Stanley Falkow, PhD, the Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor in Cancer Research, is publishing his thoughts on this topic in an essay in the Feb. 24 issue of the journal Cell, in which he asks, "Is persistent bacterial infection good for your health?" The essay is based on a talk he was invited to give at Cambridge University in November.

Falkow points out that the medical community and those who fund medical research focus on curing disease. He wonders if this single-mindedness might distract scientists from appreciating the beneficial contributions of micro-organisms to the body.

"Organisms that cause disease are commonly considered in the context of harm and epidemics and so on," said Falkow. "But the fact is that a great number of organisms that infect humans come in and set up housekeeping as it were. There are no clinical symptoms of anything wrong and people take the organisms with them to their graves".

It's not that the organisms in question - such as the bacteria that cause pneumonia or meningitis - are innocuous, he said. It's just that most of the individuals do not get disease from being infected.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


March 19, 2006, 8:00 PM CT

Females Less Susceptible To Illness And Death

Females Less Susceptible To Illness And Death
Socially isolated female rats that experience just 30 minutes of stress generate a "staggeringly stronger" response to an immune challenge than similarly isolated and stressed males, as per a new study.

The difference in the female rats' responses may stem from the demands of motherhood, scientists speculate in the study "Social isolation and the inflammatory response: sex differences in the enduring effects of a previous stressor" by Gretchen L. Hermes, Anthony Montag and Martha K. McClintock of the University of Chicago, and Louis Rosenthal of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The study appears in the recent issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

The study reinforces a growing body of evidence on health disparities between men and women and may shed light on why socially isolated men are more vulnerable to disease and death than isolated women, Hermes said.

Prior studies have established a link between stress and immune function, Hermes said. But this study looked at the long-lasting effect that three months of isolation (the equivalent of chronic social stress) and one 30-minute episode of acute physical stress had on the inflammatory response, the body's innate immune response to bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The authors found that a full two to three weeks after being subjected to isolation and the acute physical stress, male rats showed a markedly slower healing response when injected with a foreign body compared to female rats, Hermes said.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


March 18, 2006, 10:45 AM CT

Mutations In Avian Flu Virus May Cause Human Infection

Mutations In Avian Flu Virus May Cause Human Infection
The H5N1 avian influenza virus, usually known as "bird flu," is a highly contagious and deadly disease in poultry. So far, its spread to humans has been limited, with 177 documented severe infections, and nearly 100 deaths in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Iraq, and Turkey as of March 14, 2006, as per the World Health Organization (www.who.int).

"With continued outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in poultry and wild birds, further human cases are likely," said Ian Wilson, a Scripps Research professor of molecular biology and head of the laboratory that conducted the recent study. "The potential for the emergence of a human-adapted H5 virus, either by re-assortment or mutation, is a clear threat to public health worldwide."

Of the H5N1 strains isolated to date, the scientists looked at A/Vietnam/1203/2004 (Viet04), one of the most pathogenic H5N1 viruses studied so far. The virus was originally isolated from a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy who died from the infection in 2004. The hemagglutinin (HA) structure from the Viet04 virus was found to be closely correlation to the 1918 virus HA, which caused some 50 million deaths worldwide.

Using a recently developed microarray technology-hundreds of microscopic assay sites on a single small surface-the study showed that relatively small mutations can result in switching the binding site preference of the avian virus from receptors in the intestinal tract of birds to the respiratory tract of humans. These mutations, the study noted, were already "known in [some human influenza] viruses to increase binding for these receptors."........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


March 16, 2006, 11:29 PM CT

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Patients Chose Needle

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Patients Chose Needle
Rest and relaxation seem like impossible feats to most Americans trying to balance the demands of family and career. This balancing act could account for the continued growth in minimally-invasive cosmetic plastic surgery procedures with 8.4 million performed in 2005. As per the statistics released recently by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), minimally-invasive procedures increased 13 percent from the prior year and 53 percent since 2000.

Minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures are mostly performed in an outpatient setting, do not call for general anesthesia, require little to no downtime and commonly cost less than the more invasive cosmetic surgeries. The top five minimally-invasive procedures this year and since 2000 are Botox- (3.8 million), chemical peel (1 million), microdermabrasion (840,000), laser hair removal (780,000), and sclerotherapy - elimination of spider veins (590,000).

"For facial rejuvenation especially, we have seen a shift from surgical therapys to a more subtle approach," said ASPS President Bruce Cunningham, MD. "As patients choose to address signs of aging with less invasive procedures, plastic surgeons also have more tools at their disposal to care for these patients. For instance, plastic surgeons may use more than one type of product or procedure to treat different areas of a patient's face."........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 11:45 PM CT

Abnormal Gambling Habits Run In Families

Abnormal Gambling Habits Run In Families
Problem gambling runs in families as per a University of Iowa study published online Feb. 24 in the journal Psychiatry Research. The study also found an excess of alcoholism, drug disorders and antisocial personality disorder in families with pathological gamblers.

This is the first study of its kind to include detailed family interviews of relatives of persons with pathological gambling, said Donald W. Black, M.D., professor of psychiatry in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"Something is being passed along in these families that increases the persons' likelihood of engaging in impulsive and ultimately self-destructive behavior. In some persons, it manifests as substance abuse, in others as antisocial behavior, and in others gambling, and often the three are combined," said Black, who has studied pathological gambling for the past eight years.

The study consisted of interviews of 31 pathological gamblers and 31 controls, and their respective first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children).

"We looked at first-degree relatives because they theoretically share 50 percent of their genes with the pathological gambler or the control subject. If this disorder runs in families, it is most likely to cluster in those that you share more of your genes with," Black said.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 9:43 PM CT

Braces Boost Self-esteem

Braces Boost Self-esteem
Orthodontics are often necessary to help improve the stability, function, and health of an individual's teeth; otherwise, a number of people would be at higher risk for gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss because of improper teeth positioning in their mouth, as per an article in the January 2006 issue of AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Orthodontics can make people feel better about themselves," says James G. Richeson, Jr., DDS, FAGD, AGD spokesperson. "A number of patients, previous to orthodontics, smile with their mouth closed, because they are self-conscious about their teeth, but after orthodontics, they commonly smile naturally, showing off their new look."

General dentists can assess a child's need for orthodontics or alternative therapys. A dentist commonly recommends braces to improve the patient's physical facial appearance. Through orthodontic therapy, problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position, and disorders of the jaw joint can be corrected.

Alternative orthodontic therapys have long been available, but may not always be as comprehensive as orthodontics. Space maintainers help maintain space for adult teeth and can prevent complications and the need for more orthodontic treatment. Removable computer-generated appliances can treat selective cases where orthodontics would otherwise be needed, but these appliances also may cost more. Removable appliances that use wires also are available but their use depends on the complexity of the case and what needs to be achieved in the movement of the patient's teeth. A palatal expander is often used in cases where the upper arch isn't spreading as wide as it needs to, says Dr. Richeson, and such an appliance is utilized to expand that arch. The palatal expander is best used while a child is still growing, commonly between ages 8 and 10.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 6:58 AM CT

New way to quit smoking

New way to quit smoking
Smokers trying to kick the habit might stand a better chance of staying smoke-free if they begin using replacement nicotine patches or gum in the weeks before they quit cigarettes.

That's a theory a team led by the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at The University of Auckland's School of Population Health is testing in a study funded by the Health Research Council and National Heart Foundation.

Principal investigator Dr Chris Bullen says the conventional wisdom is that people trying to quit throw away their cigarettes and immediately replace them with a nicotine substitute, such as nicotine patches or chewing gum.

But some recent small-scale studies have suggested that the earlier use of a nicotine substitute might improve the chances of a person staying smokefree.

"It's been suggested that if a smoker starts using nicotine substitutes about a fortnight before quitting cigarettes, they are significantly more likely to remain smokefree six months later.

"We want to test this idea in a properly controlled, randomised trial".

Scientists from The University of Auckland together with colleagues in The Quit Group and the University of Otago will work with 1100 people, enlisted through the national Quitline. Half the participants will be offered nicotine patches or gum two weeks before they attempt to quit; the other half will begin using the patches or gum on the day that they quit.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 6:47 AM CT

Halting Alzheimer's By Blocking An Enzyme

Halting Alzheimer's By Blocking An Enzyme
Oregon Health & Science University is participating in a national study of a drug that may prevent Alzheimer's disease by blocking an enzyme that produces plaques believed to trigger the disorder.

OHSU is one of six sites around the country taking part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the agent known as LY450139, a gamma secretase inhibitor manufactured by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. Other study sites are in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Seattle, and La Jolla, Calif. Lilly is funding the study.

Gamma secretase is an enzyme that produces beta-amyloid by snipping a fragment of the protein from a larger protein that extends across the plasma membrane of the cell. The beta-amyloid fragments clump together to form dense, insoluble plaques inside the hippocampus, a curved, elongated ridge deep in the brain that controls learning and memory, and the cerebral cortex, the surface layer of gray matter of the cerebrum where sensory and motor information is coordinated.

The gamma secretase enzyme is made up of a complex of four proteins, and LY450139 is thought to de-activate it by binding within the complex, eventhough the exact location is still being studied.

"There is a theory that beta-amyloid produces Alzheimer's disease, so if you stop the amyloid, you stop the disease," said Joseph Quinn, M.D., associate professor of neurology, and cell and developmental biology, OHSU School of Medicine and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He also is an investigator at OHSU's Layton Aging & Alzheimer's Disease Center.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 6:38 AM CT

Sodas Can Supply A Surprising Caffeine Jolt

Sodas Can Supply A Surprising Caffeine Jolt
Some carbonated sodas and energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and can give an unhealthy pick-me-up to unsuspecting consumers, University of Florida researchers warn.

Because caffeine can pose health risks for people with certain medical conditions, beverages containing the additive should clearly list the amount they contain, a UF toxicologist recommends in a report assessing caffeine levels of cold beverages published this month in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

Bruce Goldberger, director of UF's William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, said the surprisingly high caffeine content in some beverages could present problems for pregnant women and children, and for adults with hypertension, heart disease or mental health ailments such as anxiety.

"We weren't surprised that there was caffeine in the sodas and some of the other beverages," said Goldberger, who is also director of toxicology and a professor of pathology and psychiatry at UF's College of Medicine. The surprise, he said, was the high concentration of caffeine in some of the energy drinks, which exceeded the government's recommendations for cold beverages.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends a maximum caffeine concentration of 65 milligrams per 12-ounce serving of cola beverages, though it does not regulate caffeine content of these drinks. And although the agency requires the presence of caffeine be disclosed, it does not mandate that caffeine quantity be specified on labeling for energy drinks and cold coffee beverages.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source



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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.

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