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Friday, July 1, 2011

When It Comes to Memory, Practice Seems to Make Perfect

HealthDay News

Friday, July 1, 2011

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new study shows that just a bit of practice can give a certain type of learning remarkable staying power.

Over two consecutive days, volunteers were asked to identify a specific face or pattern from a larger group of images. They found it difficult at first but their ability improved with practice. When they were tested again one to two years later, the participants were able to retain specific information about those faces and patterns.

The study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Canada, was published in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"We found that this type of learning, called perceptual learning, was very precise and long-lasting," lead author Zahra Hussain, a former graduate student in McMaster's department of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and now a research fellow at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said in a McMaster University news release.

"During those months in between visits to our lab, our participants would have seen thousands of faces, and yet somehow maintained information about precisely which faces they had seen over a year ago," co-author Allison Sekuler, professor and chair in cognitive neurosciences at McMaster, said in the news release.

"The brain really seems to hold onto specific information, which provides great promise for the development of brain training, but also raises questions about what happens as a function of development," she added.

"How much information do we store as we grow older and how does the type of information we store change across our lifetimes? And," she continued, "what is the impact of storing all that potentially irrelevant information on our ability to learn and remember more relevant information?"

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about memory loss with aging.

Earlier Exit from Hospital After Hip Operation: New Study Suggests 'Fast Track' Total Hip Replacement Is Both Safe and Effective

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — Discharged from the hospital within two days of a total hip replacement operation? It's possible, thanks to the new 'Fast Track' protocol that underwent testing in the U.S., in response to both patient requests for shorter hospital stays and economic realities of providing medical care. According to Dr. Lawrence Gulotta and colleagues, from Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, a carefully screened group of patients undergoing total hip replacement can be discharged from the hospital two days after surgery, without any increase in complications or adverse effects compared with the more traditional protocol. Their work is published online in Springer's HSS Journal.

The Fast Track protocol encourages patients to get up and move around earlier and more frequently. Hospital-based epidural pain relief is stopped earlier and patients are given aspirin to prevent blood clots. In addition, arrangements are made for a physical therapist to work with the patient at home after discharge.

The authors compared length of hospital stay, safety and peri-operative complications between two groups of patients over a two-year period. A total of 134 patients experienced the standard post-operative route where the discharge goal was four days at that time, and 149 enrolled in the Fast Track protocol where the goal was to discharge patients within two days of surgery.

The average length of stay in the Fast Track group was just over 2.5 days compared with patients in the traditional group who, on average, were discharged after four days or more. Of those undergoing the Fast Track approach, 58 percent were successfully discharged within two days of surgery, and 73 percent within three days.

Although five patients were readmitted from the Fast Track group, compared with only one from the traditional group, the authors found no differences in the rates of overall complications between the two groups. In addition, fewer patients felt dizzy after the operation with the Fast Track protocol than the traditional version (19 percent versus 42 percent).

The authors also looked at factors that might predict successful two-day discharges. They found that people with normal blood pressure were more likely to be discharged within two days than those with hypertension, as were those who experienced no post-operative nausea or dizziness. Indeed, postoperative pain, nausea and dizziness interfered with physical therapy and, as a result, were the main reasons for an unsuccessful two-day discharge.

Gulotta and colleagues conclude: "Since there were no differences in complication, readmission, and reoperation rates for the Fast Track group compared with the Control group in this study, we feel this proves that a two-day discharge following uncomplicated total hip replacement in a select group of relatively healthy patients is safe. The program is effective at reducing hospital length of stay. What we cannot assess at this stage is whether we achieved any actual cost savings."

Bryan Nestor, M.D., orthopedic surgeon in the Adult Reconstruction and Joint Replacement Service at Hospital for Special Surgery, was principal investigator of the study. Other HSS authors involved in the study are Douglas Padgett, M.D., Thomas Sculco, M.D., Michael Urban, M.D., PhD, and Stephen Lyman, Ph.D.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media, via AlphaGalileo.

Journal Reference:

Lawrence V. Gulotta, Douglas E. Padgett, Thomas P. Sculco, Michael Urban, Stephen Lyman, Bryan J. Nestor. Fast Track THR: One Hospital’s Experience with a 2-Day Length of Stay Protocol for Total Hip Replacement. HSS Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s11420-011-9207-2

Menu labels don't influence students' food choices

By Kerry Grens

Reuters Health

Friday, July 1, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Menu labels on cafeteria food -- highlighting the good and the bad of various meal options -- make no difference in college students' meal choices, a new study concludes.

The results add to evidence that, despite laws in some cities mandating calorie counts on fast-food menus, nutritional information makes little difference to people when they are eating out.

"Although it is important to inform consumers about the nutritional characteristics of the food offered, providing nutrition information in less healthy food environments such as fast-food restaurants is unlikely to alter consumers' food choices," wrote Christine Hoefkens and Dr. Wim Verbeke, two authors of the study, in an email to Reuters Health.

Hoefkens, Verbeke and their colleagues, based at Ghent University in Belgium, asked 224 people who regularly ate at two of the university's cafeterias to log their diets for several days.

Then, the researchers put up posters in the cafeterias that rated meals on how healthy they were: zero stars for the least healthy to three stars for the most healthy. Study participants and other diners didn't know that the posters were part of a study.

Labels next to menu items also highlighted whether a meal was high in salt, calories, saturated fat or vegetables.

Six months later, the participants, who were mostly female undergraduates, again logged what they ate for a few days.

Though the researchers predicted that the diners would have responded to the posters and made healthier food choices, they found no difference in the number of meals eaten from each star category.

Dr. Lisa Harnack, a professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who was not involved in this study, said she was not surprised by the results.

"In studies, when you ask people how important nutrition is to them when they're ordering food from a restaurant menu, it's far less important than a food price or taste. It's just not a consideration," Harnack told Reuters Health.

What's concerning about the college student population, Hoefkens and Verbeke said, is that cafeteria meals are often the main source of food for students.

Cities such as New York and Philadelphia require fast-food chain restaurants to include calorie information on menus.

The health care reform law that passed in 2010 will also require that fast-food restaurants and vending machines include nutritional information.

Dr. Gail Kaye, the nutrition program director at Ohio State University, told Reuters Health that menu labels might still work to encourage healthier eating -- it's just that they need to be paired with a healthier-leaning menu.

In the Ghent study, for instance, 70 percent of the meals earned zero or one stars, both before and after the labels. The students' meal choices mirrored the proportion of offerings in each star category.

"If they had more healthy options there, they might have chosen them," said Kaye.

Source: http://bit.ly/j1MMkF

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 15, 2011.

Copper Reduces Infection Risk by More Than 40 Per Cent, Experts Say

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — Professor Bill Keevil, Head of the Microbiology Group and Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, has presented research into the mechanism by which copper exerts its antimicrobial effect on antibiotic-resistant organisms at the World Health Organization's first International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC).

'New Insights into the Antimicrobial Mechanisms of Copper Touch Surfaces' observes the survival of pathogens on conventional hospital touch surfaces contributes to increasing incidence and spread of antibiotic resistance and infections. Keevil proposes antimicrobial copper surfaces as one way to address this, since they achieve a rapid kill of significant bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens.

He reported studies on dry surfaces with a range of pathogens, concluding that: "Copper's rapid destruction of pathogens could prevent mutational resistance developing and also help reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance genes to receptive and potentially more virulent organisms, as well as genes responsible for virulence. Additionally, copper touch surfaces could have a key role in preventing the transmission of healthcare-associated infections. Extensive laboratory tests have demonstrated copper's antimicrobial efficacy against key organisms responsible for these infections, and clinical trials around the world are now reporting on its efficacy in busy, real-world environments."

The latest trial -- conducted in intensive care units at three facilities in the United States -- has shown that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care unit rooms resulted in a 40.4% reduction in the risk of acquiring a hospital infection.

The study, funded by the US Department of Defense, was designed to determine the efficacy of antimicrobial copper in reducing the level of pathogens in hospital rooms, and whether such a reduction would translate into a lower rate of infection.

Researchers at the three hospitals involved in the trial -- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, both in Charleston, South Carolina -- replaced commonly-touched items such as bed rails, overbed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with antimicrobial copper versions.

Data presented today by trial leader Dr Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC, at ICPIC, demonstrated a 97% reduction in surface pathogens in rooms with copper surfaces, the same level achieved by "terminal" cleaning: the regimen conducted after each patient vacates a room.

Dr Schmidt said of the results: "Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for 35-80% of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean. The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Southampton, via AlphaGalileo.

Military Members Face Raised Risk of Osteoarthritis: Study

HealthDay News

Friday, July 1, 2011

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. military personnel are at significantly increased risk of developing osteoarthritis compared to civilians, a new study has found.

The physical demands of military service may play a role in the increased prevalence of the painful joint disease, the researchers suggested in the report, published online June 29 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

"Surprisingly, little is known about the osteoarthritis incidence in younger physically active populations," Kenneth Cameron, director of orthopedic research at Keller Army Hospital in West Point, N.Y., noted in a journal news release. "The active duty U.S. military population provides an excellent opportunity to examine the incidence of osteoarthritis in a young and physically active population that is regularly exposed to occupational activities with repetitive joint movements."

In conducting the study, the investigators identified 108,266 U.S. service members diagnosed with osteoarthritis between 1999 and 2008. Junior and senior enlisted service members and those serving in the Army had the highest incidence rates for osteoarthritis. The researchers noted that these groups engage in regular knee and hip bending, and also are required to meet medium-to-very-heavy physical demands on a regular basis, which may contribute to their higher prevalence of osteoarthritis.

The study also revealed that black service members were 15 percent more likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis rates than white military personnel and 26 percent more likely than other racial groups.

Women in the military also had a 20 percent higher osteoarthritis incidence rate than men. In addition, the prevalence of osteoarthritis among service members who were 40 years of age or older was 19 times higher than for those aged 20 years or younger, the report indicated.

"Further research is needed to determine the incidence of post-traumatic osteoarthritis and to explore the risk factors associated with this condition among military personnel," concluded Cameron.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects nearly 27 million American adults over the age of 25, according to the study.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation provides more information on osteoarthritis.

Gastric Bacterium Helicobacter Pylori Protects Against Asthma

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — Infection with the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori provides reliable protection against allergy-induced asthma, immunologists from the University of Zurich have demonstrated in an animal model together with allergy specialists from the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Their results published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation confirm the hypothesis recently put forward that the dramatic increase in allergic diseases in industrial societies is linked to the rapid disappearance of specific micro-organisms that populate the human body.

Allergy-induced asthma has been on the increase in the industrialized world for decades and has virtually taken on epidemic proportions. The rapid rise in allergic airway disease is attributed to air pollution, smoking, the hygiene hypothesis and the widespread use of antibiotics. The hygiene hypothesis states that modern hygiene measures have led to a lack of exposure to infectious agents, which is important for the normal maturation of the immune system. In an article published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists from the University of Zurich and the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz now reveal that the increase in asthma could be put down to the specific disappearance of the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) from Western societies.

H. pylori is resistant to gastric acid. According to estimates, around half of the world's population might be infected with the bacteria. The affliction often has no symptoms, but under certain conditions can cause gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, and stomach cancer. Consequently, H. pylori is often killed off with antibiotics as a precaution, even if the patient does not have any complaints.

Early infection with H. pylori protects against asthma

For their study, the researchers infected mice with H. pylori bacteria. If the mice were infected at the age of a few days old, they developed immunological tolerance to the bacterium and even reacted insignificantly -- if at all -- to strong, asthma-inducing allergens. Mice that were not infected with H. pylori until they had reached adulthood, however, had a much weaker defense. "Early infection impairs the maturation of the dendritic cells and triggers the accumulation of regulatory T-cells that are crucial for the suppression of asthma," says Anne Müller, a professor of molecular cancer research at the University of Zurich, explaining the protective mechanism.

If regulatory T-cells were transferred from infected to uninfected mice, they too enjoyed effective protection against allergy-induced asthma. However, mice that had been infected early also lost their resistance to asthma-inducing allergens if H. pylori was killed off in them with the aid of antibiotics after the sensitization phase. According to lung and allergy specialist Christian Taube, a senior physician at III. Medical Clinic of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the new results confirm the hypothesis that the increase in allergic asthma in industrial nations is linked to the widespread use of antibiotics and the subsequent disappearance of micro-organisms that permanently populate the human body: "The study of these fundamental mechanisms is extremely important for us to understand asthma and be able to develop preventative and therapeutic strategies later on."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Zurich.

Journal Reference:

Isabelle C. Arnold, Nina Dehzad, Sebastian Reuter, Helen Martin, Burkhard Becher, Christian Taube, Anne Müller. Helicobacter pylori infection prevents allergic asthma in mouse models through the induction of regulatory T-cells. Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol. 121, Number 8 DOI: 10.1172/YCI45041

Arsenic linked to kidney cancer

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Friday, July 1, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with moderately elevated levels of arsenic in their urine may have an increased risk of kidney cancer -- particularly if they have high blood pressure and kidney disease, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Urology, do not prove that arsenic contributes to kidney cancer, however. One possibility, the researchers say, is that kidney cancer, by impairing the kidneys' ability to filter waste from the body, leads to increased arsenic levels in the urine.

Arsenic is an element found in rock, soil, water and air. It is also released into the environment through industrial activities, and can be found in products like paints, dyes and fertilizers.

High arsenic exposure can lead to cancer. And some studies -- but not all -- have linked even moderately elevated levels of arsenic in the body to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

But in general, the potential health effects of chronic, low-level arsenic exposure remain unclear.

In the new study, researchers in Taiwan looked at the relationship between urinary arsenic levels and the risk of kidney cancer among people living in an area with low arsenic concentrations in the drinking water.

Most lived in Taipei City, where arsenic in tap water ranges from undetectable to 4 micrograms per liter.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an allowable limit of 10 micrograms per liter, and most U.S. drinking-water supplies have levels well below that.

The study researchers recruited 132 patients with kidney cancer and compared them with 260 cancer-free adults the same age.

Overall, there was an association between higher urinary arsenic levels and higher odds of kidney cancer, according to Dr. Yu-Mei Hsueh of Taipei Medical University and colleagues.

But the connection appeared strongest for people who had high blood pressure or impaired kidney function -- both established risk factors for kidney cancer.

If study participants had both of those conditions plus relatively high arsenic levels, their odds of kidney cancer were six times higher than those of people with none of the three risk factors.

Those with any two of those risk factors, meanwhile, had a four-fold increase in risk for kidney cancer.

In all, 17 kidney cancer patients and 17 cancer-free participants had all three risk factors.

It's possible, according to Hsueh's team, that arsenic exposure led to high blood pressure or kidney disease in some people, which then contributed to their kidney cancer.

That is a possibility, agreed Dr. Anthony Smith, chief of urology at the University of Mexico in Albuquerque, who was not involved in the study.

On the other hand, impaired kidney function might allow for greater concentrations of arsenic to build up in the urine.

"I don't think they really can tell from this study," Smith said in an interview.

He called the findings interesting, however, and said additional, larger studies to confirm or refute the results would be helpful.

"Arsenic exposure has been linked to a number of cancers -- bladder cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer," Smith noted. But it's unclear whether the low drinking-water exposures of people in the current study -- and most Americans -- present a cancer risk.

"Right now, they think this level is safe," Smith said, referring to the EPA threshold. "But no one knows for sure. It's still up in the air."

It is estimated that 13 million Americans live in areas where the public water supply exceeds the limit of 10 micrograms per liter. And unregulated private wells might also contain too much arsenic -- particularly in certain areas of the West, Midwest and New England where the groundwater contains high concentrations of the toxic chemical.

Experts suggest that people have private well water tested for arsenic. If the level exceeds 10 micrograms per liter, it can be treated with special filtration systems.

Worldwide, potentially dangerous arsenic levels in drinking water are major problem.

Researchers have estimated that about 140 million people around the world drink water with arsenic levels above 10 micrograms per liter. Bangladesh has been hardest hit, with millions being exposed to high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in well water.

Source: http://bit.ly/kQoyKp

Journal of Urology, June 2011.

New Clues to the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have identified a series of novel proteins in human cerebrospinal fluid. The proteins, which carry specific sugar molecules, are found in greater concentrations in patients with dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease than in patients with dementia caused by other diseases. This gives hope for new forms of treatment in the future.

Göran Larson is a professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy and one of the authors of the article published in the revered journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"When it comes to the link to Alzheimer's, we're thinking first and foremost of the possibilities to use these molecules as markers for an early and reliable diagnosis, but also, of course, of what role these molecules may play in the development and course of the disease."

These new molecules give researchers another way of thinking of the mechanisms behind Alzheimer's disease. Larson and his research team are already working with other researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy and Chalmers University of Technology to develop new analytical techniques for measuring the concentrations of these molecules in cerebrospinal fluid. The aim is to try to make the analyses more sensitive, as well as simpler, cheaper and more accessible so that they can be used as routine clinical assays when investigating dementia.

"Dementia is a major and growing problem not just for healthcare but for society as a whole since more people are getting older and older, and the single largest risk factor for Alzheimer's is just that -- old age," says Larson. "There isn't currently any effective pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer's, but if this discovery can contribute to an early diagnosis then medicines that slow the progression of the disease can be tried before the dementia gets too severe.

"If we can link the formation of these molecules to the disease mechanisms behind Alzheimer's, then there's hope that we can also develop new drugs that can affect the course of this serious disease."

Alzheimer's Disease

With more than 100,000 people affected in Sweden, Alzheimer's is one of the most common diseases of our society. Caused by changes in the brain tissue, the disease predominantly affects the memory and often leads to an earlier death. Alzheimer's disease results in not only considerable suffering for patients and their families, but also in huge costs to society.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Gothenburg, via AlphaGalileo.

Journal Reference:

A. Halim, G. Brinkmalm, U. Ruetschi, A. Westman-Brinkmalm, E. Portelius, H. Zetterberg, K. Blennow, G. Larson, J. Nilsson. Site-specific characterization of threonine, serine, and tyrosine glycosylations of amyloid precursor protein/amyloid  -peptides in human cerebrospinal fluid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1102664108

Soluble Fiber Appears Key to Trimming 'Bad Fat'

HealthDay News

Friday, July 1, 2011

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing daily soluble fiber intake may help you lose dangerous visceral fat, which produces hormones and other substances linked to a host of chronic diseases, according to a new study.

Unlike the subcutaneous fat found just under the skin, visceral fat is located deep in the belly and wraps around a person's vital organs. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found the way to hone in on this deep belly fat is to get moderate amounts of regular exercise and to eat more soluble fiber from vegetables, fruits and beans.

"We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Kristen Hairston, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist in a news release from the medical center. "Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact."

Researchers analyzed 1,114 black and Hispanic Americans since those populations are at higher risk for high levels of visceral fat as well as developing high blood pressure and diabetes. The study, published in the June 16 online issue of the journal Obesity, examined whether certain lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise habits, were associated with a change in the participants' belly fat over a period of five years.

Using CT scans to measure subcutaneous and visceral fat, researchers found that increased intake of soluble fiber was associated with a reduction in belly fat, but not subcutaneous fat.

In fact, for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. In addition, regular moderate exercise (30 minutes of vigorous exercise two to four times per week) resulted in a 7.4 percent reduction over the same time period.

So what exactly does a person need to eat to get 10-grams of soluble fiber each day? The researchers noted this could be achieved by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas and one-half cup of pinto beans daily.

The study pointed out, however, that more research is needed to explain the link between soluble fiber intake and reductions in visceral fat. "There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don't know how it works," said Hairston.

"Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits has not," Hairston added. "Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits."

More information

The National Institutes of Health provides more information on soluble fiber.

Preventing Diabetes Damage: Zinc's Effects On a Kinky, Two-Faced Cohort

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011 

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — In type 2 diabetes, a protein called amylin forms dense clumps that shut down insulin-producing cells, wreaking havoc on the control of blood sugar. But zinc has a knack for preventing amylin from misbehaving.

Recent research at the University of Michigan offers new details about how zinc performs this "security guard" function. The findings appear in the July 8 issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Amylin is something of a two-faced character. In healthy people who have normal levels of zinc in the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, amylin actually pitches in to help with blood sugar regulation, says Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, a U-M professor of chemistry and of biophysics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. In fact, an analog of amylin called Symlin is used in conjunction with insulin to manage blood sugar levels in diabetics.

This good behavior on amylin's part comes about because zinc acts like a security guard at a rock concert, whose job is keeping fans from turning troublesome and destructive. In molecular terms, zinc prevents amylin -- also known as Islet Amyloid Polypeptide (IAPP) -- from forming harmful clumps similar to those found in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and various other degenerative diseases.

But in a zinc-starved cellular environment of someone with type 2 diabetes, amylin has no watchful guard to rein it in. It's free to clump together with other amylin molecules in the molecular equivalent of a gang.

The clumping ultimately leads to the formation of ribbon-like structures called fibrils, and because fibril formation has been linked to a number of human diseases, it was long assumed that fibrils themselves were toxic. But accumulating evidence now suggests that the actual culprits may be shorter snippets that assemble in the process of forming full-length fibrils. For this reason, it's important to understand the whole aggregation process, not just the structure of the final fibril.

Ramamoorthy and colleagues are trying to better understand exactly how zinc interacts with amylin, in hopes of finding ways of treating or preventing type 2 diabetes and other diseases associated with aging. In earlier work, they showed that when zinc binds to amylin, at a point near the middle of the amylin molecule, the amylin molecule kinks, which interferes with the formation of toxic clumps. In the current work, they show that the binding of zinc in the middle makes one end of the amylin molecule, called the N-terminus, become more orderly.

"This is significant, because the N-terminus is very important in clump formation and amylin toxicity," Ramamoorthy said.

In addition, the researchers found that before amylin can begin forming fibrils, zinc must be rousted from its nesting place. This eviction is costly in energetic terms, and the sheer expense of it discourages fibril formation. And because a single zinc molecule can bind to several amylin molecules, it ties up the amylin in assemblages that, unlike certain other aggregations, are not intermediates in the pathway that leads to fibril formation.

However zinc, like amylin, has a dual nature. At conditions similar to those outside islet cells, where even a tiny amount of amylin aggregates in the blink of an eye, zinc inhibits fibril formation. But in conditions resembling the inside of the cell, the inhibitory effect begins to wane and other factors, like insulin, take on zinc's security guard duties. Ramamoorthy's group found that this happens because amylin has not one, but two binding sites for zinc. Zinc prefers to bind at the first site -- the one in the middle of the amylin molecule, where its binding discourages fibril formation. But when there's too much zinc around, all the binding sites in the middle positions are occupied and zinc must attach to amylin at the second site, which counteracts the effect of the first site. This may explain why decreased levels of insulin -- the backup security guard -- inside islet cells of diabetics result in islet cell death.

The experiments described in the Journal of Molecular Biology paper were all done in an artificial environment, not a living organism where zinc levels constantly fluctuate. In future experiments, Ramamoorthy hopes to more closely approximate natural conditions in order to better understand how amylin interacts with islet cells and what triggers its toxicity toward the cells. The results of these studies will facilitate the development of metal-based therapies for type 2 diabetes, similar to the promising metal-based drugs developed for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases, Ramamoorthy said.

Ramamoorthy's coauthors in the paper are undergraduate student Samer Salamekh, postdoctoral fellows Jeffrey Brender and Suk-Joon Hyung, former graduate student Ravi Prakash Reddy Nanga, NMR specialist Subramanian Vivekanandan and assistant professor of chemistry Brandon Ruotolo

The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the research.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Michigan.

Journal Reference:

Samer Salamekh, Jeffrey R. Brender, Suk-Joon Hyung, Ravi Prakash Reddy Nanga, Subramanian Vivekanandan, Brandon T. Ruotolo, Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy. A Two-Site Mechanism for the Inhibition of IAPP Amyloidogenesis by Zinc. Journal of Molecular Biology, 2011; 410 (2): 294 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.05.015

Evidence "increasingly against" phone cancer risk

By Ben Hirschler

Reuters

Friday, July 1, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - Despite a recent move to classify mobile phones as possibly carcinogenic, the scientific evidence increasingly points away from a link between their use and brain tumors, according to a new study on Saturday.

A major review of previously published research by a committee of experts from Britain, the United States and Sweden concluded there was no convincing evidence of any cancer connection.

It also found a lack of established biological mechanisms by which radio signals from mobile phones might trigger tumors.

"Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults," the experts wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The latest paper comes just two months after the World Health Organisation's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided cellphone use should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Anthony Swerdlow of Britain's Institute of Cancer Research, who led the new review, told Reuters the two positions were not necessarily contradictory, since the IARC needed to put mobile phones into a pre-defined risk category.

"We are trying to say in plain English what we believe the relationship is. They (IARC) were trying to classify the risk according to a pre-set classification system," Swerdlow said.

Other things deemed by the IARC to be possibly carcinogenic include items as diverse as lead, pickled vegetables and coffee.

Mobile phone use has risen hugely since the early 1980s, with nearly 5 billion handsets in use today, and controversy about their potential link to the main types of brain tumor, glioma and meningioma, has never been far away.

The largest study to date, published last year, looked at almost 13,000 mobile phone users over 10 years.

Swerdlow and colleagues analyzed its results in detail but concluded it gave no clear answer and had several methodological problems, since it was based on interviews and asked subjects to recall phone use going back several years.

Significantly, other studies from several countries have shown no indication of increases in brain tumors up to 20 years after the introduction of mobile phones and 10 years after their use became widespread, they added.

Proving an absence of association is always far harder in science than finding one, and Swerdlow said it should become much clearer over the next few years whether or not there was any plausible link.

"This is a really difficult issue to research," said David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the study.

"But even given the limitations of the evidence, this report is clear that any risk appears to be so small that it is very hard to detect -- even in the masses of people now using mobile phones."

Swerdlow is chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection's Standing Committee on Epidemiology. The commission is the international body, recognized by the WHO, that constructs guidelines for exposure limits for non-ionizing radiation.

Since mobile phones have become such a key part of daily life -- used by many for websurfing as well as talking -- industry experts say a health threat is unlikely to stop people using them.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Will Waterman)

Foods With Baked Milk May Help Build Tolerance in Children With Dairy Allergies, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Friday, July 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2011) — Introducing increasing amounts of foods that contain baked milk into the diets of children who have milk allergies helped a majority of them outgrow their allergies, according to a study conducted at Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute.

The data are reported in the May 23 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers studied 88 children, ages 2 to 17 years old, who were diagnosed with milk allergy, evaluating their tolerance to foods containing baked milk, such as muffins, waffles and cookies. The high temperatures used in baking cause the proteins in milk to break down, reducing the allergenicity.

Over the course of five years, researchers used a series of food challenges to introduce the children to foods that had progressively less-heated forms of milk. At the end of the study period, 47 percent of the children in the experimental group could tolerate unheated milk products, such as skim milk, yogurt and ice cream, compared to only 22 percent in a control group, indicating that controlled, increased exposure to baked milk products accelerates the rate at which children outgrow their milk allergies.

"This study shows that many children with allergies do not need to completely avoid all milk products," said Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, MD, co-author of the study, and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Allergy and Immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "It's also an encouraging sign that through careful medical supervision, children can grow out of their allergies much quicker."

In the study's first food challenge, children were given a plain muffin or waffle containing baked milk. Sixty five of the 88 children, approximately 75 percent, experienced no allergic reactions. Parents of those children were given specific guidelines on how to incorporate baked milk products such as muffins, cookies and cakes into their child's daily diet. The children who reacted to the muffin continued avoiding foods containing milk.

After a period of six to 12 months, the 65 children who passed the initial muffin food challenge returned to the clinic for the second food challenge and were given cheese pizza. Baked cheese is cooked at a lower temperature than baked goods and contains higher amount of milk protein. Seventy-eight percent of the children in this group experienced no allergic reactions and were told to incorporate baked cheese into their diets. Children who reacted to the baked cheese continued eating muffins and returned after a period of six to 12 months to be re-challenged with pizza. If they showed no allergic reactions, they moved on in the study.

After an average of three years, the study participants who showed no reaction to baked cheese returned for the final food challenge, and were given foods with unheated milk such as skim milk, yogurt and ice cream. Of the 65 children who passed the initial muffin challenge, 60 percent could tolerate unheated milk.

"While we need to continue our research to determine how to best apply these results to the clinical setting, these data are an exciting step towards our ultimate goal of finding curative therapies for food allergies," said Dr. Nowak.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff. 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Jennifer S. Kim, Anna Nowak-Węgrzyn, Scott H. Sicherer, Sally Noone, Erin L. Moshier, Hugh A. Sampson. Dietary baked milk accelerates the resolution of cow’s milk allergy in children. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.04.036

Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer: Who, Me?

By By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Friday, July 1, 2011

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- It may sound simple: Colorectal cancer is generally considered one of the most preventable types of cancer that people can develop. So get screened and prevent it.

But the devil is in the details. Cancer experts have found much confusion regarding the guidelines for when and how people should be screened for colon cancer.

A precise colorectal cancer screening can locate pre-cancerous polyps within the colon. Polyps can be removed and, once gone, their potential to cause colon cancer is gone, too.

However, a study released last fall by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only one in five doctors in the United States follow all recommended colon cancer screening guidelines. Most correctly recommend that screening begin at age 50, but they're inconsistent in describing the screening options and how often they should be utilized, the CDC reported.

"We have made some progress getting physicians on board with screening, but now we need to make sure they know which tests work, which tests don't work, and that there can be too-frequent testing," said Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colorectal cancers for the American Cancer Society.

The result has been a lot of head-scratching among patients, cancer experts say.

"I work a lot with the public, and there's definitely unfamiliarity with what age to begin getting screened, and which screening tool to use," said Suzette Smith, the Prevent Cancer Foundation's director of partnerships for colorectal cancer screening.

About 142,570 new cases of colorectal cancer were reported in 2010, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and about 51,370 people died from the disease.

Most of those deaths could have been prevented through screening, the CDC maintains, but nearly half of all colorectal cancers are not detected until they've reached a late stage, according to the agency.

Part of the problem involves a lack of awareness, Brooks said. "There are a number of different tests available for screening, and patients need to be made aware of their options so they can take the test they are comfortable with," he said.

Colonoscopy has long been regarded as the "gold standard" for colon cancer screening, Smith said. And with good reason: It is a very thorough test, and doctors can remove any polyps as they find them without making people undergo a second procedure.

But some people remain reluctant to have a colonoscopy, Brooks said. Again, with good reason: Preparing for a colonoscopy can be quite unpleasant, and it is an invasive procedure that requires sedation and comes with some risk, though small.

"It's not a procedure you want people to go through if they don't need to have the test," Brooks said. "On the other hand, colonoscopy is the test that needs to be performed if any of the other tests come back abnormal."

The CDC's recommendations for colon cancer screening actually call for a mix of screening tests. Starting at age 50, the agency says, people should receive:

A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test every year. This test checks for hidden blood in stool samples. "Those tests have been shown to decrease the chance of developing and dying from colon cancer," Brooks said.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. In this test, physicians use a flexible, lighted tube to visually inspect the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon. It's a shorter tube, so the screening covers only the lower third of the colon. "That's where the majority of cancers start, so it is a fairly effective test," Brooks said.

A colonoscopy every 10 years. The longer tube, also flexible and lighted, used in this test is capable of examining the entire length of the colon. Physicians also can send instruments down through the tube to collect biopsies or remove polyps.

The American Cancer Society recommends other screening options. For instance, people could have either a barium enema or a virtual colonoscopy every five years in lieu of a flexible sigmoidoscopy, if they so chose.

Virtual colonoscopy is the most recent screening test to be developed for colon cancer. It involves the use of CT scans to inspect the lining of the colon. And virtual colonoscopy has grown in credibility in recent years.

"There have been now enough large studies in multiple settings to show that virtual colonoscopy is almost as good as traditional colonoscopy in detecting cancers, and it also does a good job at detecting large polyps," Brooks said.

But there are downsides, Smith said. People undergoing virtual colonoscopy have to endure the same unpleasant preparation rituals used for regular colonoscopy. And, if anything is found, they will have to have a regular colonoscopy for further examination and treatment.

One more thing people should keep in mind, she said: Everyone -- not just men -- should be screened for colon cancer.

"A popular misconception is that colon cancer affects only men, when it affects men and women at equal rates," Smith said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about colorectal cancer.

A companion article looks at one state's effort to improve its dire statistics on colorectal cancer.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 

Skin lesion risk seen at moderate arsenic levels

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 30, 2011 

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High arsenic exposure is known to be a risk factor for skin cancer, but a new study suggests that even more-moderate exposure through drinking water may boost the risk of pre-cancerous skin growths.

The study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, focused on an area of Bangladesh with naturally high levels of arsenic in well water. It's common for water there to have arsenic levels upwards of 100 micrograms per liter of water.

By comparison, the upper limit for arsenic in U.S. public drinking water is 10 micrograms per liter, and most local systems have levels well below that.

Arsenic is an element found in rock, soil, water and air. It is also used as a wood preservative and can be found in some paints, dyes and fertilizers.

High arsenic exposure has been linked to several cancers, including cancers of the bladder, lungs and skin.

In particular, studies have shown that people who drink water with arsenic levels of at least 100 micrograms per liter have a heightened risk of pre-cancerous skin growths.

But the risk at lower arsenic exposures has not been clear, according to the researchers on the new study, led by Dr. Habibul Ahsan of the University of Chicago.

So Ahsan's team followed more than 10,000 Bangladeshi adults for about six years, looking at the relationship between arsenic exposure and the odds of developing arsenic-related skin lesions.

In all, 866 men and women developed new skin lesions -- pigment changes or thickened areas of skin that are often precursors to arsenic-related skin cancer.

People whose well water topped 200 micrograms per liter were almost three times as likely to develop a skin growth as those whose water arsenic levels were below 10 micrograms per liter.

In the latter group, about six percent developed a skin lesion, versus 15 percent in the high-arsenic group.

But there was also an increased risk at more-moderate levels. People whose well water had arsenic concentrations between 50 and 100 micrograms per liter were 69 percent more likely to develop skin lesions than those with water levels below 10 micrograms per liter.

"The findings of this study have important public health implications for arsenic in drinking water," Ahsan and his colleagues write.

"We found that arsenic exposure through drinking water was associated with increased risk of skin lesion incidence, even at water concentrations less than 100 micrograms per liter."

Right now, both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider 10 micrograms per liter the upper limit for arsenic in drinking water. It's estimated that 140 million people worldwide drink water with levels higher than that.

But researchers still aren't sure what a "safe" level of arsenic exposure is. Some studies, but not all, have linked even moderately elevated levels of arsenic in drinking water, or in the body, to increased risks of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

The EPA is currently considering lowering the 10-microgram limit.

It's estimated that 13 million Americans live in areas where the public water supply exceeds the current EPA standard. And unregulated private wells might also contain too much arsenic -- particularly in certain areas of the West, Midwest and New England where the groundwater contains high concentrations of the toxic chemical.

Experts suggest that people have private well water tested for arsenic. If the level exceeds 10 micrograms per liter, it can be treated with special filtration systems.

There's also some evidence that diet can help counter the toxic effects of higher arsenic exposure.

In a previous study of the same Bangladeshi adults, Ahsan's team found that those who ate the most root vegetables and gourds, like pumpkin and squash, had a lower risk of skin lesions than people whose diets were heavier in meat or other types of vegetables.

Those findings do not prove that the foods are protective. But the researchers said it was important to keep searching for ways to mitigate the toxic effects of arsenic -- because once people are chronically exposed to high levels, their health risks remain higher-than-normal even after their arsenic exposure is reduced.

Source: http://bit.ly/lB1Un6

American Journal of Epidemiology, online May 16, 2011.

Targeted Contrast Agent Reveals Colon Cancer

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011 

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Colon cancer could become easier to detect, thanks to a newly developed medical contrast agent and advanced optics that illuminate dangerous, invisible polyps.

The Norwegian subsidiary of international medical giant GE Healthcare is conducting pioneering research on new medical procedures based on targeted contrast agents. A new product now under development could play an important role in diagnosing colon cancer. This research receives some of its funding under the Research Council's Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (BIA), an open competitive arena with no thematic restrictions.

Common and lethal

Among all cancer types, colon cancer ranks second only to lung cancer in number of deaths caused.

In Norway, one in 24 women and one in 29 men contract colon cancer -- roughly 3 500 people per year. Of these, only half survive five years after being diagnosed.

We believe there is a great deal to gain by improving diagnostics for this type of cancer," says project manager Geir Torheim of GE Healthcare. "There are strong indications that we can now make it far easier to not only find but also remove the most dangerous cancerous polyps in the colon."

Seeks out cancer

Colon cancer was thought to be relatively simple to detect through colonoscopy, a procedure using a camera mounted on the end of a flexible tube to enable doctors to see the mushroom-shaped growths called polyps. An instrument in the same tube is used to excise the polyps.

It has become clear, however, that these easily visible polyps are not the only danger.

"Japanese doctors discovered that there are also flat polyps in the colon that are far more difficult to detect visually," explains Mr Torheim. "The new contrast agent will be valuable for detecting those."

The contrast agent for detecting colon cancer is called GE-137. It is a targeted agent, meaning that once it is injected by needle in the patient's arm, it seeks out the cancer.

New instrument and colon prototype

After roughly 90 minutes the substance has been absorbed in areas where cancer is present.

This is where the other part of the cancer research project comes in: locating the substance is the next step in the procedure. GE Healthcare AS in Norway has drawn on parent company General Electric (GE) -- one of the world's largest conglomerates and a developer of both pharmaceuticals and medical equipment -- to refine the colonoscopy system and camera apparatus used in the project.

GE Global Research, a diversified industrial research laboratory, provided substantial help with the new instrument. It works in much the same way as previous models, but also shines a strong red light. The contrast agent changes the colour of this light so it can be detected by the new camera equipment and compared against regular-colour images.

In a prototype of a colon containing nearly invisible malignant polyps, these dangerous growths are easy to see when the red light is directed on them. The prototype was developed by the research foundation SINTEF in Trondheim.

Aiding surgeons

The contrast agent and medical equipment could greatly ease the task of the surgeons wielding the camera and monitor at the operating table.

The contrast agent has now been fully tested on animal subjects, and researchers have launched a phase-1 clinical trial on people.

GE Healthcare has already examined the substance's effect on healthy volunteers and so far has found no side effects whatsoever. Trials such as these are time-consuming, however, and must be carried out meticulously, so much work remains to be done.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by The Research Council of Norway.

Who Should Get a CT Scan to Screen for Lung Cancer?

By By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, June 30, 2011 

THURSDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Annual low-dose CT scans cut the death rate from lung cancer by 20 percent in heavy smokers and formerly heavy smokers, compared to those who get annual chest X-rays, according to the results of a major National Cancer Institute study released on Wednesday.

Experts are calling the findings a major advance in efforts to combat lung cancer deaths. By catching the cancer early, the tumors can be removed surgically -- hopefully before they've spread and become very difficult to cure.

"This is a momentous time in the history of public health research," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "The NLST [National Lung Screening Trial] is the best-designed and best-performed lung cancer screening study in history."

Yet the findings raise as many questions as they answer, said Dr. Harold Sox, a professor emeritus of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School who wrote an accompanying editorial to the study published in the June 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Screening for lung cancer can reduce the death rate from lung cancer, and that's a very important, game-changing result," Sox said. "It's an enormous advance. But the next questions are: What should we do about it? And how should we maximize the results for the societal investment it's going to take?'"

The National Lung Screening Trial included more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers aged 55 to 74 who were randomly selected to undergo either a "low-dose helical CT" scan or a chest X-ray once a year for three years. Helical CT, also called a "spiral" CT, provides a more complete picture of the chest than an X-ray, experts said. While an X-ray is a single image in which anatomical structures overlap one another, a spiral CT takes images of multiple layers of the lungs to create a three-dimensional image.

The death rate was 20 percent lower in those who got the CT scans than in those who had X-ray screening.

Study participants consisted of people who'd smoked at least 30 "pack years" -- meaning, current or former smokers who'd smoked an average of one pack a day for at least 30 years, or two packs a day for at least 15 years.

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, screening with a spiral CT costs from $300 to $1,000, which means insurers and policy-makers have to consider who is going to pay for it, and who should receive one, Sox said.

Could CT scans benefit people who are at a somewhat higher risk of lung cancer, but who don't meet the 30 "pack years" threshold? Would screening every other year cost half as much and work just as well? Is three years long enough to screen someone, or does the screening need to be done every year for as long as the person is alive?

Also, in this era of rising health-care costs, what is the responsibility of insurance companies or Medicare to pay for the test? And is it more cost-effective to put resources into preventing smoking and smoking-cessation programs instead of paying for CT scans?

While there are about 7 million people in the United States who meet the "heavy smoker" criteria used in the trial, there are 94 million current and former smokers, according to the study authors.

"Those are big questions in terms of costs, when you are talking about 7 million to 94 million people," Sox said.

Dr. Therese Bevers, a professor of clinical cancer prevention at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, urged people with a shorter smoking history not to rush out and demand a CT scan. The study results showed benefit specifically for people who'd been heavy smokers for a long time.

"It's not appropriate for every smoker, such as the more casual or short-term user. Thirty pack years is a very significant smoking history," Bevers said. "If you smoked when you were in college 20 years ago, this is probably not appropriate for you."

And yet, 30 "pack years" is by no means an absolute yardstick, she added. Other studies have suggested CT screening might be worthwhile in people who smoked a pack of day for 20 years -- less than what was looked at in the new trial, but still a long history of smoking.

Another consideration is the risk of radiation from the scans. While the CTs used in the study emit less radiation than conventional CT scans, it's not non-existent, said Dr. Christine D. Berg, study co-investigator and acting deputy director of the Division of Cancer Prevention at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Radiation is a special concern for younger people who have been shown to be both more susceptible to its effects and who have many more years of life in which to develop cancer caused by radiation, she said.

"I am very reluctant to see this move into a much younger population until we have more information," Berg said.

The next step for researchers is to do mathematical modeling that will address whether the potential upside of screening outweighs the risks of screening, Berg added.

Anxiety created by "false-positive" readings is another concern, experts said. Over the course of three years, about 24 percent of the low-dose helical CT screens were positive and 7 percent of the X-rays were positive.

About 81 percent of those patients needed follow-up imaging to determine if the suspicious lesion was cancer; 2.2 percent underwent biopsy of the lung tissue and 3.3 percent needed a bronchoscopy, in which a tube is placed into the airway, researchers said.

The vast majority of scans that were initially positive turned out to be "false positives" -- 96.4 percent of the CT scans and 94.5 percent of the X-rays. False positive means the screening test spots an abnormality, but it turns out not to be cancerous. (Put another way: 3.6 percent of the CT scans that flagged an abnormality were later found to be cancerous and 5.5 percent of the X-rays that spotted something suspicious turned out to be cancer.)

Often, the abnormalities turned out to be lymph nodes or scarring from past infections.

"As this study demonstrates, the rate of findings suspicious for lung cancer was high in each screening round (over 27 percent in the first two rounds), but low-dose CT exams also can identify other non-lung related abnormalities, and this positivity rate also was high," Brawley said. "So managing abnormal findings and avoiding doing harm in individuals with false-positive findings are among the major challenges we will confront."

And sticking a needle deep into the tissue of the lung for a biopsy is an invasive procedure that has its own set of risks, such as a collapsed lung, Bevers said.

The trial also found that about 1 percent of people who underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor died. Nationwide, that number is closer to 4 percent, which may erase some of the life-saving gains from the early detection, Sox said.

The American Cancer Society has not yet issued recommendations on who should be screened for lung cancer using a CT scan, although this study, as well as other ongoing and soon-to-be published studies out of Europe, will be taken into consideration, Brawley said.

"Guidelines groups have yet to carefully evaluate these and other data to determine who should and should not consider undergoing screening for early lung cancer detection and how often," he said.

Above all, if you smoke, quit, Brawley said. That, more than anything else, will help you avoid getting sick.

"We estimate that quitting smoking will in 10 years' time reduce a smoker's risk of death from lung cancer as much as CT screening did in this study," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on lung cancer.

Herbal Medicine Treatment Reduces Inflammation in Allergen-Induced Asthma, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) using a traditional Korean medicine, SO-CHEONG-RYONG-TANG (SCRT) that has long been used for the treatment of allergic diseases in Asia, found that SCRT treatment alleviates asthma-like pulmonary inflammation via suppression of specific chemokines or proteins. These findings appear online in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Asthma is a unique form of chronic respiratory disease characterized by reversible airway obstruction and pulmonary inflammation. It represents one of the most common chronic inflammatory diseases affecting an estimated 300 million people worldwide with an expected increase to 400 million by 2025. The sharply rising prevalence and incidence of asthma causes global concern both in the developed as well as in developing countries.

"In order to elucidate the mechanism of how SCRT modulates the allergic response, we evaluated the immunomodulatory effects of SCRT in a murine model of asthma induced by a house dust extract containing cockroach allergens and endotoxin," explained Jiyoun Kim, PhD, a research assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at BUSM. "In this study multiple aspects of pulmonary inflammation were examined including the production of inflammatory mediators and the pulmonary recruitment of inflammatory cells," he added.

The researchers found SCRT treatment significantly reduced airway hyper-reactivity as measured by both whole body plethysmography and direct measurement of airway resistance. The researchers report that the immune response of pulmonary inflammation was significantly inhibited by SCRT treatment as demonstrated by reduced plasma IgE antibody levels and improved lung histology. SCRT significantly reduced the number of neutrophils in the bronchoalveolar (BAL) fluid and also significantly reduced the BAL levels of CXC chemokines both expressed as part of the immune response, providing a potential mechanism for the reduced inflammation.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Oriental Medicine R&D Project of the Ministry of Health & Welfare of the Republic of Korea.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Boston University Medical Center.

Journal Reference:

Jiyoun Kim, Sudha Natarajan, Hyunsu Bae, Sung-Ki Jung, William Cruikshank, Daniel G. Remick. Herbal medicine treatment reduces inflammation in a murine model of cockroach allergen–induced asthma. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.05.001

Cured meats not linked to pancreatic cancer

By Allison Bond

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 30, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There are no clear signs that eating cured meats like ham, bacon or hot dogs could increase the odds of getting pancreatic cancer, according to a new study.

Some research has hinted that might be the case, because the preservatives used for curing, nitrate and nitrite, cause tumors in lab animals.

Because pancreatic cancer is highly lethal, scientists have been on a quest to identify factors that might trigger it. Every year, some 43,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, and 95 percent die within five years.

"Prevention is really the best way to save a life," said Dr. Daniel Chang, a cancer specialist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who was not involved in the new work.

To probe the role of curing chemicals, researchers from the National Cancer Institute used a 124-item food questionnaire to test how much nitrate and nitrite people got from their diet.

Of the more than 300,000 people who filled out the questionnaire, just over 1,000 -- about a third of one percent -- developed pancreatic cancer over the next 10 years.

Men who ate the most of the preservatives did appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting the disease, but that increase was so small it might as well have been due to chance, according to the study.

There was no hint of a higher risk among women.

The new work adds to a growing body of evidence that has failed to link pancreatic cancer to certain foods or nutrients, such as dietary fiber and vitamin D.

"We don't have a consistent trend of studies showing that eating more of this or less of that is clearly contributing to the risk of pancreatic cancer," said Dr. Andrew Ko, a cancer researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

The authors, whose report is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, could not be reached for comment.

Regardless of whether cured meats are linked to pancreatic cancer, experts say the study doesn't mean people shouldn't strive to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in fatty foods such as cured meats.

"There are a number of good reasons to practice improved dietary habits -- not just for cancer prevention," said Dr. Al Benson, a cancer specialist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "We routinely recommend people limit their intake of fatty foods, and many of these animal products also contain nitrite and nitrate salts."

Lighting up, eating lots of sugar, and being obese have all been tied to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer in earlier work.

"By and large, the best we can do to prevent pancreatic and other cancers," said Benson, "is to encourage people to avoid smoking, to avoid obesity, and to practice improved dietary habits."

Source: http://bit.ly/ijofP8

American Journal of Epidemiology, online June 17, 2011.

Red Wine: Exercise in a Bottle?

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — As strange as it sounds, a new research study published in the FASEB Journal, suggests that the "healthy" ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, may prevent the negative effects that spaceflight and sedentary lifestyles have on people. The report describes experiments in rats that simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight, during which the group fed resveratrol did not develop insulin resistance or a loss of bone mineral density, as did those who were not fed resveratrol.

According to Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, "There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us, getting that activity isn't easy. A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts. For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again."

Scientists studied rats that underwent simulated weightlessness by hindlimb tail suspension and were given a daily oral load of resveratrol. The control group showed a decrease in soleus muscle mass and strength, the development of insulin resistance, and a loss of bone mineral density and resistance to breakage. The group receiving resveratrol showed none of these complications. Study results further demonstrated some of the underlying mechanisms by which resveratrol acts to prevent the wasting adaptations to disuse-induced mechanical unloading. This study also suggests that resveratrol may be able to prevent the deleterious consequences of sedentary behaviors in humans.

"If resveratrol supplements are not your cup of tea," Weissmann added, "then there's good news. You can find it naturally in red wine, making it the toast of the Milky Way."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

I. Momken, L. Stevens, A. Bergouignan, D. Desplanches, F. Rudwill, I. Chery, A. Zahariev, S. Zahn, T. P. Stein, J. L. Sebedio, E. Pujos-Guillot, M. Falempin, C. Simon, V. Coxam, T. Andrianjafiniony, G. Gauquelin-Koch, F. Picquet, S. Blanc. Resveratrol prevents the wasting disorders of mechanical unloading by acting as a physical exercise mimetic in the rat. The FASEB Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1096/fj.10-177295

Fetal Exposure to Common Epilepsy Drugs May Harm Kids' IQ: FDA

HealthDay News

Thursday, June 30, 2011

THURSDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday advised doctors to warn women of childbearing age that fetal exposure to certain drugs used to control seizures or migraines appears to diminish intellectual abilities in offspring.

The drugs include so-called "valproate products" -- medications such as valproate sodium (Depacon), divalproex sodium (Depakote, Depakote CP, Depakote ER), valproic acid (Depakene, Stavzor), and their equivalent generic formulations, the FDA said in a statement.

Children born to women who take these medications during their pregnancy "have an increased risk of lower cognitive test scores than children exposed to other anti-seizure medications during pregnancy," the FDA said.

The agency said it based its conclusions on epidemiological studies that showed that fetal exposures to the drugs tended to correlate with lower scores on IQ and other cognitive tests.

Valproate drugs are FDA-approved for use against epilepsy, migraine and bipolar disorder, although the agency notes that they are also used "off-label" for other conditions, mainly other psychiatric disorders.

The drugs have also long been linked to an increased risk of birth defects known as neural tube defects, the agency noted.

The FDA advises that doctors counsel women of childbearing age of the risks to offspring associated with valproate products, and "weigh the benefits and risks of valproate when prescribing this drug to women of childbearing age, particularly when treating a condition not usually associated with permanent injury or death. Alternative medications that have a lower risk of adverse birth outcomes should be considered."

In late 2010, a Swedish study of over 1,200 teenage children born to women with epilepsy found that those born to women who took two or more epilepsy drugs while pregnant fared worse in school than peers with no prenatal exposure to those medications.

The findings, published in Epilepsia, echoed earlier research that linked prenatal exposure to epilepsy drugs, particularly valproic acid medications (such as Depakene and Depakote), to negative effects on a child's ability to process information, solve problems and make decisions.

"Our results suggest that exposure to several anti-epileptic drugs in utero may have a negative effect on a child's neurodevelopment," study author Dr. Lisa Forsberg of Karolinska University Hospital told HealthDay at the time.

Forsberg recommended that women with epilepsy plan their pregnancies. "That way, they and their doctors can come up with individual treatment plans that make the pregnancy safe for both mother and child," she said.

More information

To learn more about women and epilepsy, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.

Enzyme Is Important Regulator of Aggressive Breast Cancer Development

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified an enzyme that appears to be a significant regulator of breast cancer development. Called PTPN23, the enzyme is a member of a family called protein tyrosine phosphatases, or PTPs, that plays a fundamental role in switching cell signaling on and off.

When the scientists suppressed the expression of PTPN23 in human mammary cells, they noted a cascade of effects that included the cells breaking away from their anchors; their scattering; and their invasion through extracellular matrix (essentially, cells' mooring in tissue). These are the hallmarks of metastasis, the primary cause of mortality in cancer.

PTPs are able to affect cell signaling as a consequence of their very specific biochemical function: they remove phosphate groups from other molecules. Another family of enzymes, called kinases, does precisely the opposite: its members add phosphate groups, and in so doing, work together with the PTPs to regulate cell signaling.

CSHL Professor Nicholas Tonks, who purified the first PTP over 20 years ago, is an authority on phosphatases. He teamed up with CSHL Associate Professor Senthil Muthuswamy, an expert on kinases and breast cancer biology, who is also affiliated with the University of Toronto. They and their colleagues methodically suppressed each of the 105 known PTPs, in a cell culture system constructed to simulate mammary epithelial tissue. The cells were also modified so that the cancer-promoting receptor protein called HER2 (itself a kinase) could be activated selectively. Overabundant HER2 protein (also called ErbB2) is associated with aggressive disease and poor prognosis, and is found in about one-fourth of those who have breast cancer.

To determine the possible impact of PTPs on cancer development in cells expressing activated HER2, the team assembled a library of short-hairpin RNA molecules, or shRNAs, which had the ability to inactivate, one by one, the genes responsible for expressing each PTP. Of the 105 PTPs, they observed that three of them, when suppressed, were associated with increased motility, or the ability of the mammary cells to move freely of one another. The suppression of one of these three -- PTPN23 -- was also observed to cause the cells to become invasive.

Part of what makes this finding intriguing is the fact that the CSHL team was able to trace the cause of these effects to specific elements of a complex signaling cascade. And this, in turn, has led the team to identify a potentially powerful new therapeutic strategy in this aggressive cancer type.

They discovered that PTPN23, under normal conditions, i.e., when not suppressed, recognizes and removes phosphate groups from three molecules important in the signaling cascade in breast epithelial cells. These three molecules are called SRC, E-cadherin and β-catenin. Of the three, the key is SRC: it is a type of kinase that, like HER2, is well known to be a cancer-promoter. SRC-induced anomalies in cell signaling have been linked with breast and other cancer types.

Tonks, Muthuswamy and colleagues demonstrated for the first time that this particular PTP -- PTPN23 -- acts directly on SRC to inhibit its phosphate-adding activity. But when PTPN23 is suppressed, as in the team's experiments, SRC is free to add phosphates to other molecules in the cell, including E-cadherin and β-catenin. Normally, these molecules are important in cell adhesion. But when they are phosphorylated by SRC, their ability to function as the "glue" that holds cells to their anchors in epithelial tissue is impaired, and the cells are able to break free. This adds interest to the observation, made by others, that the gene that expresses PTPN23 is located within a "hotspot" on human chromosome 3 (3p21) that is mutated in breast and other cancers.

"Considering the negative effect of PTPN23 on SRC activity, loss of PTPN23 may promote tumor growth and metastasis in breast tumors that are associated with activation of SRC," the team suggests in a paper on the research published in the journal Genes & Development.

This fine-grained picture of how an absence of PTPN23 can set in motion a chain of events in breast epithelial cells that promotes cancer proliferation in turn suggests the next step in the research. The team tried and was able to reverse the metastatic effects set in train by PTPN23 suppression in these cancer-cell models by introducing a candidate drug molecule called SU6656, which inhibits SRC.

On the theory that PTPN23 regulates the activity of SRC and the phosphorylation status of the E-cadherin/β-catenin signaling complexes to modulate cell motility, invasion and scattering, the team has moved to a new set of experiments in living mice which have been genetically engineered to lack PTPN23. In such animals, they expect aggressive tumors to form. They seek to address these by treating the mice with inhibitors of SRC.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The original article was written by Peter Tarr.

Journal Reference:

Guang Lin, Victoria Aranda, Senthil K. Muthuswamy and Nicholas K. Tonks. Identification of PTPN23 as a novel regulator of cell invasion in mammary epithelial cells from a loss-of-function screen of the 'PTP-ome'. Genes & Development, 2011; DOI: 10.1101/gad.2018911

Life after prostate surgery worse than men expect

By Kerry Grens

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 30, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly half of men who undergo surgery to treat prostate cancer find themselves with greater incontinence problems and less sexual function than they had anticipated, according to a new poll.

Before the surgery, some men in the study had expected to get better urinary and sexual function a year after the procedure -- a misbelief that the researchers say is out of step with the reality of prostate cancer surgery.

"Those results were surprising," said Dr. Tracey Krupski, an assistant professor of urology at the University of Virginia, and who was not involved in this study.

"Any intervention that you do to a patient, whether it be surgical or radiation, is never going to make the person (function) better than they are at the present time," Krupski said.

According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every six men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point.

While there is controversy over how to treat low-risk tumors, some of which may never cause any harm if left untreated, surgery and radiation are common options when the disease is more advanced. Every year, tens of thousands of men select surgery for their treatment.

As part of the new survey, 152 men who had part or all of their prostate removed for cancer treatment filled out a questionnaire before surgery. They first had counseling to educate them about the risks of the procedure, which include erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

The questions asked about their expectations of urinary, bowel and sexual function a year after the surgery.

About half of men expected that they would have the same function after surgery as before, and 17 percent of men anticipated better sexual function after the surgery.

One year later, the researchers followed up with the patients and found that just 36 percent of men's expectations for urinary function matched the true outcomes, and 40 percent of the expectations for sexual function matched reality.

Daniela Wittmann, the sexual health coordinator in the urology department at the University of Michigan and a researcher on the study, said doctors are unable to tell patients specifically how well they are likely to recover their urinary and sexual functions.

"We can only (inform them) in terms of overall statistics, we can't predict for the individual man" how well he will recover, Wittmann said, "which means that, if in doubt, people tend toward being hopeful and optimistic."

One recent study showed that, one year after surgery, only one out of four men recovered his ability to have intercourse. (See Reuters Health report, April 21, 2011.)

In May, another research team found that some degree of incontinence was common, too, although men tended not to be significantly bothered by it. (See Reuters Health report, June 3, 2011.)

Krupski said men's unrealistic expectations can be a double-edged sword. On the one side, optimism is known to help people heal, but on the other side, "it may ultimately lead to disappointment when adjusting to a long term disability."

The inability to get an erection is one of the more common side effects from prostate cancer surgery, though some men are eligible for a "nerve sparing" procedure, which leaves intact the nerves that control erections.

A different study, published in the same issue of the Journal of Urology as Wittmann's, found that when patients were educated about the risks and benefits of nerve sparing, and then given the power to choose the type of procedure, they were likely to make choices similar to their surgeons'.

In this case, the men participated in both a routine, pre-operative counseling session as well as a separate appointment with a surgeon to discuss the risks and benefits of each procedure.

Krupski said additional pre-operative visits would be beneficial, but are generally not covered by insurance plans.

She said that a network of men who have been through the experience and can support new cancer patients might help them understand the realities of life after surgery.

Wittmann said that involving patients' partners is also vital to successfully regaining sexual relationships.

"Sex is a partnered activity for most people. The partner can be very effective as part of an intimate team recovering from the side effects of this surgery," she told Reuters Health.

The study did not examine whether men would make a different treatment decision given their hindsight after the surgery.

Wittmann said she thinks only a small proportion of men would choose not to have surgery if they fully understood the potential for erectile dysfunction, because there are other cancer-related reasons that drive their decision.

Source: http://bit.ly/izjfw4

The Journal of Urology, June 15, 2011.

Possible Way to Make Bladder Cancer Cells More Susceptible to Chemotherapy

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers at the UC Davis Cancer Center have discovered a way of sensitizing muscle-invasive bladder cancer cells so that they succumb to the toxic effects of chemotherapy. The finding adds to mounting evidence that tiny strands of RNA -- called microRNA -- play key roles in some of the deadliest types of cancer.

In the current study, published online June 28 in International Journal of Cancer, researchers boosted the production of a microRNA found in bladder cancer cell lines -- encoded for by the gene miR-34a -- and found that this resulted in more of the cells being killed by cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat many types of cancer.

"When we took the bladder cancer cell lines and activated miR-34a, they were more responsive to chemotherapy," said Ralph deVere White, UC Davis Cancer Center director and professor of urology.

The study establishes, for the first time, a link between sensitivity of bladder cancer cells to chemotherapy and the expression of miR-34a. It suggests that miR-34a may be used as a predictor of response to chemotherapy, as well as a target for new drugs.

Currently, about 50 percent of patients with advanced bladder cancer will survive five years after diagnosis. Although clinical trials have demonstrated that chemotherapy before surgery can improve survival rates, it is rarely used because fewer than 50 percent of patients will respond favorably. Without knowing which patients will improve as a result of chemotherapy, physicians are generally reluctant to use a treatment that can cause their patients to suffer significant side effects.

"So, now we have to prove that it works to predict chemotherapy response in patients," deVere White said. To that end, UC Davis has entered into a partnership with Israel-based Rosetta Genomics to develop a microRNA profile for muscle-invasive bladder cancer that may be used to predict response to chemotherapy.

As part of the current study, deVere White and his colleagues studied 27 patients and found that many who expressed lower levels of miR-34a subsequently did not respond to the combined chemotherapy-surgery treatment. Because the finding was not statistically significant, however, further work in this area is needed.

The team also studied tumor samples taken from eight of the patients who did not respond to chemotherapy. They compared the expression of miR-34a before and after chemotherapy.

"We wanted to see, if you looked at the patient's tissue before chemotherapy, were there differentially expressed microRNAs in the patients who responded to the drugs versus those that didn't respond," deVere White explained.

The team found that expression of miR-34a increased after treatment in only two of the eight cases, suggesting that gene expression levels remained low during treatment and confirming the link between low gene expression and failure to respond to treatment.

"The combined data indicate that the elevation of miR-34a expression levels prior to chemotherapy would be of benefit to muscle-invasive bladder cancer patients, particularly in a setting of low mi-R-34a expression," the authors write.

Since their discovery in 1993, microRNAs have been found to be involved in a number of types of cancer, heart disease and diseases of the nervous system. In 2007, deVere White was part of a team that identified miR-125b, a gene that encodes for a microRNA that jump starts prostate cancer cell growth midway through the disease process, eventually causing it to become fatal.

The microRNA studied here was also recently found to play a role in medulloblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. MicroRNAs, which are usually 22 to 33 nucleotides in length, are known as post-transcriptional regulators. That means they work by turning genes on or off during the part of the protein synthesis process that involves making a strand of RNA from a DNA template. The human genome encodes for an estimated 1,000 microRNAs.

According to the authors, future studies involving miR-34a will focus on testing its ability to increase sensitivity to chemotherapy and analysis of miR-34a expression in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer. With the currently low chemotherapy success rate and poor five-year survival rate for patients with this disease, "such studies are clearly warranted," the authors write.

"If we can prove what is causing chemotherapy resistance in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer, American ingenuity will come up with ways to overcome it," predicted deVere White.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of California - Davis Health System.

Journal Reference:

R.L. Vinall, A. ZRipoll, S. Wang, C-X. Pan, R.W. deVere White. MiR-34a chemo-sensitizes bladder cancer cells to cisplatin treatment regardless of P53-Rb pathway status. International Journal of Cancer, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.26256

Breast Cancer Plus Other Health Issues Linked to Worse Outcomes

HealthDay News

Thursday, June 30, 2011

THURSDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Women diagnosed with breast cancer who also suffer from other health problems have higher death rates than women who just have breast cancer, according to researchers.

Even compared with women with more advanced breast cancer but no chronic illness, those who had conditions such as heart disease, ulcers or diabetes still had a similar or lower survival rate, the study authors reported in the June 30 online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"Careful attention to the effective management of comorbid [co-occurring] conditions, as well as to the management of a patient's cancer, may result in longer overall survival for older breast cancer patients," Jennifer Patnaik, from the University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

The researchers identified more than 64,000 women aged 66 years and older with breast cancer. Forty-two percent had a history of one or more of the following 13 health conditions: stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney failure, congestive heart failure, dementia, diabetes, liver disease, heart attack, paralysis, peripheral vascular disease, previous cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcers.

The study showed that each of these conditions was associated with increased risk of death from any cause, including cancer. Women between 66 and 74 years old were particularly vulnerable.

Patnaik and colleagues concluded that whether or not breast cancer patients have other health issues is an important factor in predicting outcomes and managing a woman's cancer to ensure longer survival.

The authors of an editorial accompanying the study recommended that breast cancer treatment be customized and that any co-occurring conditions be jointly managed between a woman's oncologist and primary care physician.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on breast cancer.

Heart Transplant Patients at Risk for Serious Skin Cancers, Study Finds

ScienceDaily

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — A new study published in the American Journal of Transplantation reveals that there is a significant risk of serious skin cancers, including cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, in heart transplant patients.

When people receive heart transplants, they need immune medications to keep their body from rejecting the transplant. The changes to the immune system they experience as a result of the medications can also make them more susceptible to developing cancers.

Led by Murad Alam, MD, MSCI, of Northwestern University, researchers studied 10 years of patient information regarding 6271 heart transplants at 32 U.S. transplant centers.

Results showed that when looking at what happened to many patients transplanted over a decade at various places in the U.S., these heart transplant patients were more likely to get skin cancers than other patients who had not had such transplants. The incidence increased post-transplant from 4- to 30-fold.

"Improved patient education and appropriately increased screening and detection of skin cancers in heart transplant patients may potentially reduce their risk of serious morbidity and mortality," Alam notes.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

M. Alam, R. N. Brown, D. H. Silber, G. M. Mullen, D. S. Feldman, R. M. Oren, C. W. Yancy. Increased Incidence and Mortality Associated With Skin Cancers After Cardiac Transplant. American Journal of Transplantation, 2011; 11 (7): 1488 DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2011.03598.x

Nearsightedness linked to serious eye disease

By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Thursday, June 30, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who are nearsighted may be nearly twice as likely to also develop glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, according to a new study that summarizes earlier research.

More than two million Americans over 40 have been diagnosed with the eye disease, which is becoming increasingly expensive to treat.

According to one expert, the findings mean nearsighted people -- a third of all Americans -- may want to undergo regular eye screening.

"A conclusion might be that persons with high myopia should have regular ophthalmic examinations," Dr. Barbara Klein of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on one of the studies included in the new review, told Reuters Health.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, causing gradual loss of vision. There are several treatments available -- including drugs and surgery -- but none of them can restore sight once it's lost.

The new study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, focused on the link between nearsightedness and "open-angle" glaucoma, the most common form of the disease.

Dr. Nomdo Jansonius at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands and colleagues combined data from 11 previous studies that included tens of thousands of people, tracking who were nearsighted and had glaucoma.

The researchers found that, overall, nearsighted people were about 90 percent more likely to also develop open-angle glaucoma. Those with higher levels of myopia appeared to be at higher risk of glaucoma, as well.

The findings only show that nearsightedness and glaucoma often co-occur, not that one causes the other. Furthermore, some of the studies are hard to compare, Klein noted, because they looked at people of different ages or ethnicities, or applied different diagnostic criteria for the conditions.

"The results are, in a sense, an average," she said, and may not be applicable to every group of people.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology already recommends regular eye exams for all adults beginning around age 40. The group urges blacks to start even earlier, with exams every three to five years, because their risk of glaucoma is higher.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally supported expert panel, says there is too little evidence to recommend for or against screening.

Source: http://bit.ly/mUP30n

Ophthalmology, online June 20, 2011.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Natural Gases as a Therapy for Heart Disease?

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2011) — An understanding of the interaction between hydrogen sulphide (the 'rotten eggs' gas) and nitric oxide, both naturally occurring in the body, could lead to the development of new therapies and interventions to treat heart failure.

Research carried out by scientists from the Peninsula Medical School at the University of Exeter and the National University of Singapore has analysed the complex 'cross talk' between hydrogen sulphide (H2S ) and nitric oxide (NO), both gasses that occur naturally in the body, and found that the interaction may offer potential strategies in the management of heart failure.

The research is published in the leading international journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling.

Both gases interact naturally with each other within the body and the balance between the two and other chemical compounds has influence on health. The research team found that by modulating how H2S and NO interact, a positive affect was produced for heart health.

The two gases were found to interact together to form a thiol-sensitive compound (linked to the sulphur in H2S) which produces inotropic (muscular contraction) and lusitropic (muscular relaxation) effects in the heart. This crosstalk suggests that there is the potential to produce a molecule that may be of benefit to the heart and which could be the basis of a new drug therapy based on elements that occur naturally in the body.

The study also offers a new perspective on gaseous neurotransmitters, in which the function of cells is influenced by the interaction of the two gases.

Prof. Matt Whiteman, joint author from the Peninsula Medical School, commented: "Our findings are potentially very exciting and offer a novel insight into understanding how and why the heart fails. This could lead to new treatment and management strategies of heart failure, such as molecules which release H2S. By altering the ratio of H2S and NO, two naturally occurring physiological gases in the heart and perhaps the rest of the cardiovascular system, we have the potential to manipulate heart and vascular function. There is huge potential in the continued development of H2S delivery systems either through pharmacological means or through dietary intervention."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry.

Journal Reference:

Qian-Chen Yong, Jia Ling Cheong, Fei Hua, Lih-Wen Deng, Yok Moi Khoo, How-Sung Lee, Alexis Perry, Mark Wood, Matthew Whiteman, Jin-Song Bian. Regulation of Heart Function by Endogenous Gaseous Mediators—Crosstalk Between Nitric Oxide and Hydrogen Sulfide. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 2011; 14 (11): 2081 DOI: 10.1089/ars.2010.3572

Pollutants linked to diabetes in new study

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with higher levels of pesticides and other pollutants in their blood may be more likely to get type 2 diabetes, suggests a new study of elderly Swedes.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that these chemicals might drive changes in the body that lead to diabetes, researchers say, although they don't prove that one causes the other.

Taken together, the data suggest that there is more to the blood sugar disease than eating too much and not getting enough exercise, said Dr. David Carpenter, head of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in New York.

The pollutants, including pesticides and poly-chlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are largely found in meat and fatty fish. Some of them, including PCBs -- once used in paint, plastics, and for electrical equipment manufacturing -- are heavily regulated and no longer used in many countries.

However, "the exposure to these chemicals in the general population still occurs because they have widely contaminated our food chain," study researcher Dr. Duk-Hee Lee, of Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea, told Reuters Health in an email.

In the current study, Lee and colleagues sought to follow up on previous findings that had linked these chemicals with type 2 diabetes.

They recruited a group of 725 diabetes-free elderly adults in Sweden and took blood samples to measure their levels of the pollutants. Then, the researchers followed them for the next five years.

Thirty-six of the study participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over that time. When Lee's team accounted for other diabetes risks such as weight, exercise, and smoking, people who had high levels of PCBs were up to nine times more likely to get diabetes than those with very low pollutant levels in their blood.

The link was smaller for some pesticides, while others weren't linked to diabetes at all, according to the findings, which are published in the journal Diabetes Care.

The authors note that the number of new diabetes cases was low, and the findings can't prove that PCBs or other pollutants cause diabetes.

But research suggesting that's the case is piling up, said Carpenter, who was not involved in the new study.

More than eight percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health -- most of them type 2 diabetes.

Many studies have linked type 2 diabetes to overweight, lack of exercise and high blood pressure. In the new study, a big waistline was also a diabetes risk factor.

The authors speculate that long-term exposure to environmental pollutants could affect cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

It would make sense that heavier people are more at risk of diabetes, Carpenter added, because they're also probably eating more fatty meat and fish high in these chemicals -- and they have more fat themselves where these chemicals are stored.

While researchers try to clear up just which pollutants may be linked to diabetes and how, strategies for preventing diabetes don't change much, Carpenter said.

"I think the message isn't really so different as it was when we thought diabetes was only a lifestyle disease," he said. "It is important to reduce your consumption of animal fat," and to be aware of how much fatty fish you're eating.

Lee added that eating more vegetables and other plant-based foods, as well as exercising, can help the body get rid of these pollutants.

Source: http://bit.ly/k9xRuK

Diabetes Care, online June 23, 2011.

Chemical Produced in Pancreas Prevented and Reversed Diabetes in Mice

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2011) — A chemical produced by the same cells that make insulin in the pancreas prevented and even reversed Type 1 diabetes in mice, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have found.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is characterized by the immune system's destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that make and secrete insulin. As a result, the body makes little or no insulin.

The only conventional treatment for Type 1 diabetes is insulin injection, but insulin is not a cure as it does not prevent or reverse the loss of beta cells.

A team led by Dr. Qinghua Wang, in the division of endocrinology and metabolism, and Dr. Gerald Prud'homme, in the division of pathology, has studied the role of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid produced by beta cells in the pancreas. The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

The researchers found that GABA injections not only prevented diabetes in mice, but even reversed the disease. Their findings were published June 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The significance of GABA is that it corrects both known causes of Type 1 diabetes in mice: It works in the pancreas to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells and it acts on the immune system to stop the destruction of those cells. Those two actions are necessary to reverse the disease and prevent its recurrence. Until now, there has been no effective treatment that achieves both goals at the same time.

GABA has been known for decades to be a key neurotransmitter in the brain, a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other, but its role in the pancreas was unknown. The St. Michael's study is the first to identify and describe GABA's importance in regulating the survival and function of pancreatic beta cells in mice.

GABA and related therapies will have to be tested in human clinical trials before they can be considered as a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes, said Dr. Wang.

"GABA is the first agent to act both by protecting the insulin-producing cells from damage and by decreasing the body's immune reaction against these cells," said Dr. Gary F. Lewis, incoming director of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre and Director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Toronto, where insulin was discovered 90 years ago.

"The body's immune reaction against its own insulin-producing cells is responsible for most of the damage that leads to the development of type 1 diabetes. This exciting observation may open up new avenues for the prevention and treatment of Type 1 diabetes in humans."

Drs. Wang and Prud'homme are both clinician scientists in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital. In addition, Dr. Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto and Dr. Prud'homme is a professor in the university's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology.

"Diabetes research such as this brings us closer to a cure," said Michael Cloutier, president and CEO at the Canadian Diabetes Association. "We are excited to be a part of this significant discovery and look forward to the outcomes of clinical studies."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by St. Michael's Hospital. The original article was written by Leslie Shepherd.

Journal Reference:

N. Soltani, H. Qiu, M. Aleksic, Y. Glinka, F. Zhao, R. Liu, Y. Li, N. Zhang, R. Chakrabarti, T. Ng, T. Jin, H. Zhang, W.-Y. Lu, Z.-P. Feng, G. J. Prud'homme, Q. Wang. GABA exerts protective and regenerative effects on islet beta cells and reverses diabetes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1102715108

Researchers analyze gene changes in ovarian cancer

By Alicia Chang

AP Science Writer

The Associated Press

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Researchers analyzing the genetic makeup of ovarian cancer tumors have found a gene mutation that is surprisingly frequent, suggesting it plays a key role in driving the cancer.

The finding, appearing in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, may eventually lead to tests for earlier diagnosis of the disease and to better treatment. Ovarian cancer kills nearly 14,000 women in the United States each year. It's usually not spotted until at an advanced stage.

The gene sequencing was carried out by The Cancer Genome Atlas, a federally funded network of medical centers that analyzed 316 ovarian tumors.

Scientists found that 96 percent of the tumors had mutated TP53 genes. The mutations were not present in normal tissue from the patients, showing they arose within the tumors. Normally, the gene directs the cell how to make a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor, keeping cells from growing and dividing uncontrollably.

Alterations in nine other genes also played a role in ovarian cancer, though to a much lesser extent, the researchers reported. Among them were the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

"In other cancers, there are usually several genes that are involved" on almost equal footing, said one of the study authors, Dr. David Wheeler of Baylor College of Medicine. "This is an unusual pattern."

The new work "is producing impressive insights into the biology" of ovarian cancer, Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

Among cancers, ovarian is the fifth leading cause of death among women. A regular pelvic exam is considered the best way to detect ovarian cancer early.

The Cancer Genome Atlas was launched in 2006 to unravel the genetic underpinning of cancer. The group mapped the genome of the most common form of brain cancer in 2008 and plans to do the same for 20 other types of cancers.

Online:

Nature journal: www.nature.com/nature

The Cancer Genome Atlas: http://cancergenome.nih.gov

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Low-Income Families Often Miss Out on Proper Nutrition

HealthDay News

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TUESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Many members of low-income families are not getting proper nutrition in their diet, a new study shows.

In assessing the families' eating patterns and the nutritional value of their meals, the researchers found that more than 70 percent of the 100 families, who were newly enrolled in the Nebraska Nutrition Education Program, failed to consume adequate amounts of several vital nutrients, including vitamins A and C, protein, calcium and iron.

The study, published in the June issue of the Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal, also found that most of these families didn't eat meals together on a regular basis.

While the majority of families studied gathered for dinner at least five times each week, breakfast and lunch were eaten as a family at most four times a week, and sometimes less. Roughly 43 percent of the study participants said their families ate breakfast and lunch together just two or fewer times per week.

The researchers suggested that the lack of family mealtime was a major contributing factor to their nutritional deficiencies. Eating together more often, particularly at breakfast, might help tackle the problem, they noted.

"Nutrients we get from these food groups -- such as calcium, folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A -- are critical in the diets of young children and are often lacking in the diet of limited-income children," study author Wanda Koszewski, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension associate professor of nutrition and health sciences, said in a university news release. "Due to the fast-paced lifestyle of many families, not having breakfast together makes it difficult to meet these nutrients later in the day."

In increasing the frequency of family breakfasts, families would be more likely to eat essential foods from the milk group, fruits and fruit juices, the authors asserted. The findings could help food and nutrition professionals counsel families on how they could alter their eating patterns and improve their nutrition.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on nutrition.

Mystery Ingredient in Coffee Boosts Protection Against Alzheimer's Disease, Study Finds

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — A yet unidentified component of coffee interacts with the beverage's caffeine, which could be a surprising reason why daily coffee intake protects against Alzheimer's disease. A new Alzheimer's mouse study by researchers at the University of South Florida found that this interaction boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor that seems to fight off the Alzheimer's disease process.

The findings appear in the early online version of an article to be published June 28 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Using mice bred to develop symptoms mimicking Alzheimer's disease, the USF team presents the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against the memory-robbing disease that is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee.

Previous observational studies in humans reported that daily coffee/caffeine intake during mid-life and in older age decreases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The USF researchers' earlier studies in Alzheimer's mice indicated that caffeine was likely the ingredient in coffee that provides this protection because it decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease.

The new study does not diminish the importance of caffeine to protect against Alzheimer's. Rather it shows that caffeinated coffee induces an increase in blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). GCSF is a substance greatly decreased in patients with Alzheimer's disease and demonstrated to improve memory in Alzheimer's mice. A just-completed clinical trial at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute is investigating GCSF treatment to prevent full-blown Alzheimer's in patients with mild cognitive impairment, a condition preceding the disease. The results of that trial are currently being evaluated and should be known soon.

"Caffeinated coffee provides a natural increase in blood GCSF levels," said USF neuroscientist Dr. Chuanhai Cao, lead author of the study. "The exact way that this occurs is not understood. There is a synergistic interaction between caffeine and some mystery component of coffee that provides this beneficial increase in blood GCSF levels."

The researchers would like to identify this yet unknown component so that coffee and other beverages could be enriched with it to provide long-term protection against Alzheimer's.

In their study, the researchers compared the effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee to those of caffeine alone. In both Alzheimer's mice and normal mice, treatment with caffeinated coffee greatly increased blood levels of GCSF; neither caffeine alone or decaffeinated coffee provided this effect. The researchers caution that, since they used only "drip" coffee in their studies, they do not know whether "instant" caffeinated coffee would provide the same GCSF response.

The boost in GCSF levels is important, because the researchers also reported that long-term treatment with coffee (but not decaffeinated coffee) enhances memory in Alzheimer's mice. Higher blood GCSF levels due to coffee intake were associated with better memory. The researchers identified three ways that GCSF seems to improve memory performance in the Alzheimer's mice. First, GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease. GCSF also creates new connections between brain cells and increases the birth of new neurons in the brain.

"All three mechanisms could complement caffeine's ability to suppress beta amyloid production in the brain" Dr. Cao said, "Together these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer's -- but only if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee."

Although the present study was performed in Alzheimer's mice, the researchers indicated that they've gathered clinical evidence of caffeine/coffee's ability to protect humans against Alzheimer's and will soon publish those findings.

Coffee is safe for most Americans to consume in the moderate amounts (4 to 5 cups a day) that appear necessary to protect against Alzheimer's disease. The USF researchers previously reported this level of coffee/caffeine intake was needed to counteract the brain pathology and memory impairment in Alzheimer's mice. The average American drinks 1½ to 2 cups of coffee a day, considerably less than the amount the researchers believe protects against Alzheimer's.

"No synthetic drugs have yet been developed to treat the underlying Alzheimer's disease process" said Dr. Gary Arendash, the study's other lead author. "We see no reason why an inherently natural product such as coffee cannot be more beneficial and safer than medications, especially to protect against a disease that takes decades to become apparent after it starts in the brain."

The researchers believe that moderate daily coffee intake starting at least by middle age (30s -- 50s) is optimal for providing protection against Alzheimer's disease, although starting even in older age appears protective from their studies. "We are not saying that daily moderate coffee consumption will completely protect people from getting Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Cao said. "However, we do believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of this dreaded disease or delay its onset."

The researchers conclude that coffee is the best source of caffeine to counteract the cognitive decline of Alzheimer's because its yet unidentified component synergizes with caffeine to increase blood GCSF levels. Other sources of caffeine, such as carbonated drinks, energy drinks, and tea, would not provide the same level of protection against Alzheimer's as coffee, they said.

Coffee also contains many ingredients other than caffeine that potentially offer cognitive benefits against Alzheimer's disease. "The average American gets most of their daily antioxidants intake through coffee," Dr. Cao said. "Coffee is high in anti-inflammatory compounds that also may provide protective benefits against Alzheimer's disease."

An increasing body of scientific literature indicates that moderate consumption of coffee decreases the risk of several diseases of aging, including Parkinson's disease, Type II diabetes and stroke. Just within the last few months, new studies have reported that drinking coffee in moderation may also significantly reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers.

"Now is the time to aggressively pursue the protective benefits of coffee against Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Arendash said. "Hopefully, the coffee industry will soon become an active partner with Alzheimer's researchers to find the protective ingredient in coffee and concentrate it in dietary sources."

New Alzheimer's diagnostic guidelines, now encompassing the full continuum of the disease from no overt symptoms to mild impairment to clear cognitive decline, could double the number of Americans with some form of the disease to more than 10 million. With the baby-boomer generation entering older age, these numbers will climb even more unless an effective preventive measure is identified.

"Because Alzheimer's starts in the brain several decades before it is diagnosed, any protective therapy would obviously need to be taken for decades," Dr. Cao said. "We believe moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee is the best current option for long-term protection against Alzheimer's memory loss. Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, appears to directly attack the disease process, and has few side-effects for most of us."

According to the researchers, no other Alzheimer's therapy being developed comes close to meeting all these criteria.

"Aside from coffee, two other lifestyle choices -- physical and cognitive activity -- appear to reduce the risk of dementia. Combining regular physical and mental exercise with moderate coffee consumption would seem to be an excellent multi-faceted approach to reducing risk or delaying Alzheimer's," Dr. Arendash said. "With pharmaceutical companies spending millions of dollars trying to develop drugs against Alzheimer's disease, there may very well be an effective preventive right under our noses every morning -- caffeinated coffee."

This USF study was funded by the NIH-designated Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the State of Florida.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of South Florida (USF Health), via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Chuanhai Cao, Li Wang, Xiaoyang Lin, Malgorzata Mamcarz, Chi Zhang, Ge Bai, Jasson Nong, Sam Sussman and Gary Arendash. Caffeine Synergizes with Another Coffee Component to Increase Plasma GCSF: Linkage to Cognitive Benefits in Alzheimer's Mice. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 25(2), June 28, 2011

Obesity a Major Cause of Early Death in Women: Study

HealthDay News

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TUESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity is a major risk factor for death among obese women who don't smoke, particularly low-income women, a new study finds.

It included more than 3,600 women aged 45 to 64 in Scotland who never smoked and were followed for 28 years. During that time, half the women died, including 916 (51 percent) from cardiovascular disease and 487 (27 percent) from cancer.

Researchers found that low-income women were more likely to be severely obese than women who were better off financially.

The study also found that those who were severely obese had the highest death rates, while non-smoking women who were not obese have relatively low death rates regardless of their socioeconomic status, according to the study, published June 28 online in the British Medical Journal.

Though women with low-income jobs were more likely than those with higher paying jobs to die of cardiovascular disease, the same didn't hold true for cancer.

Researchers also found that women who never smoked were much more likely to be overweight or obese than those who smoked. This suggests that high smoking rates a few decades ago may have obscured the extent of obesity in non-smoking women, and that recent declines in smoking rates may have contributed to the increase in overweight and obesity, the researchers said in a journal news release.

Despite the risks posed by obesity, "it is important not to forget that smoking is a much stronger risk factor for (death) than most other risk factors, including obesity," Professor Johan Mackenbach, of Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about overweight and obesity.

Aspirin might interfere with new heart drug

Reuters

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - A new study backs up a suggestion that high dosages of aspirin may interfere with AstraZeneca's heart drug Brilinta, offering a possible explanation for disappointing results from a study of patients in North America.

The potential multibillion dollar drug is already approved in 33 countries, but the prospects of a green light from U.S, regulators have been clouded by a trial that appeared to show it performed worse than rival drug Plavix.

Experts have speculated that the lack of effect in U.S. patients might be due to the drug's interaction with aspirin, which is typically given in higher doses alongside treatments such as Plavix in the United States than in Europe.

The results of an analysis of the interaction between Brilinta and aspirin dosage level, published in U.S. medical journal Circulation, appeared to support that assertion, although it noted that the regional variation could still be due to chance alone.

The analysis suggested that U.S. patients on Brilinta also taking low-dose aspirin actually did 27 percent better than those on low-dose aspirin and Plavix.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is due to make a decision on Brilinta by July 20.

Source: http://bit.ly/llKNkp

Circulation, online June 27, 2011.

Certain Cancer Drugs Don't Interfere With Flu Vaccine: Study

HealthDay News

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TUESDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients taking the drugs sunitinib and sorafenib respond to the flu vaccine, which suggests that the drugs don't cause as much damage to the immune system as previously believed, researchers say.

The small study included 40 volunteers in the Netherlands, including 16 who were treated with sunitinib and six who were treated with sorafenib. Seven patients with metastatic renal cell (kidney) cancer received neither drug, nor did 11 healthy people.

When given a flu vaccine, all of the cancer patients had an antibody response similar to that of the healthy participants.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

"The exact incidence of influenza in patients with cancer is not known, however, it is definitely higher than in the general population," study leader Dr. Carla van Herpen, a medical oncologist at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, said in a journal news release. "Managing these patients with the flu vaccine would improve their quality of life."

The findings have implications beyond reducing cancer patients' risk of flu, according to Dr. Keith Flaherty, director of developmental therapeutics at Massachusetts General Hospital and a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research.

"The damage that chemotherapy does to normal, healthy cells as it treats cancer has been well documented, but the precise effect that the new class of targeted agents has on the immune system is less well known. This study helps us answer that question," he said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about cancer and the flu.

Calcium Plus Vitamin D May Reduce Melanoma Risks in Some Women, Study Finds

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — A combination of calcium and vitamin D may cut the chance of melanoma in half for some women at high risk of developing this life-threatening skin cancer, according to a new study by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.

Using existing data from a large clinical trial, the study zeroed in on women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, as people with this generally non-fatal disease are more likely to develop the more lethal illness -- melanoma. The researchers found that women who once had non-melanoma and took the calcium-vitamin D combination developed 57 percent fewer melanomas than women with similar histories who were not given the supplements. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell or squamous cell cancers, are the most common forms of skin cancer.

"In preventive medicine, we want to target people most at risk for the disease," said dermatologist Jean Tang, MD, PhD, lead author of the study. "If you previously had a non-melanoma skin cancer, calcium plus vitamin D might reduce your risk of the more deadly melanoma."

Tang added a note of caution. The study found that a daily dose of 1,000 mg calcium plus 400 IU of vitamin D doesn't provide skin cancer protection for everybody. Women without a history of non-melanoma skin cancer who took the supplements did not see any reduction of risk compared with their placebo-group counterparts, according to the research.

The study will be published online on June 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Vitamin D is well-known for its role in bone growth, but it also affects non-skeletal cells. In many parts of the body, including the skin, vitamin D controls how quickly cells replicate, a process that often goes awry in cancer. Reports from various institutions have suggested that vitamin D is associated with lower risks of colon, breast, prostate and other cancers. Nonetheless, the Institute of Medicine published a report last November saying that more research was needed on vitamin D and calcium, as the evidence was insufficient to prove their having a benefit for conditions other than bone health.

This study is the second to look at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on cancer risk with a randomized, controlled trial.

Tang and colleagues analyzed data from the Women's Health Initiative, a study that followed 36,000 women ages 50 to 79 for an average of seven years. Half of the women took the daily dose of calcium and vitamin D as part of the experiment; the other half took a placebo pill. The WHI calcium plus vitamin D trial was designed to look at the effects of the supplement on hip fractures and colorectal cancers, but its researchers collected data on many other health issues, including other cancers.

Tang and colleagues took advantage of the large and long-term data set provided by the WHI trial to explore whether vitamin D has a protective effect against skin cancer. "Our results include the first positive cancer-reducing effect seen from the calcium plus vitamin D trial," said Teresa Fu, MD, a co-author of the study and a recent graduate of the School of Medicine.

The lack of protective effect in women without a history of non-melanoma skin cancer may be due to the amount of vitamin D given to the patients in the WHI trial. "The patients in the Women's Health Initiative were given vitamin D at a very low dose, based on today's knowledge -- only 400 IU per day," said David Feldman, MD, professor emeritus of endocrinology and a co-author of the study. Furthermore, patients in the placebo group were allowed to take as much vitamin D as patients that were provided the calcium and vitamin D supplements, so the experimental difference between the two groups was small. In light of that small difference, "it's somewhat surprising that there was an effect on melanoma risk, and I think many potential benefits of vitamin D may not have been detected," said Feldman.

Because men were not included in the trial, the researchers cannot be certain whether the protective effect of the supplements would also apply to men with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer. Nonetheless, a 2010 study by Tang demonstrated that elderly men with higher blood levels of vitamin D have fewer non-melanoma skin cancers.

Even in a large study like the WHI, the low frequency of melanomas means that the absolute number of cancers was small. Out of the 36,000 participants, only 176 cases of melanoma were reported. "That just highlights how large a trial needs to be to capture cancer as relatively rare as melanoma," said Marcia Stefanick, PhD, the Stanford WHI principal investigator and senior author of this study.

"These results spur us to do more studies," said Tang. She is planning multiple lines of research to examine the potential relationship between vitamin D and cancer prevention, including a study that will compare blood levels of vitamin D with melanoma outcomes. Another line of research will examine the effect of larger doses of vitamin D on the behavior of skin cells in patients with high skin-cancer risk.

Other authors on the paper are Eleni Linos, MD, PhD, former Stanford Hospital dermatology resident, and collaborators at the Northwest Kaiser Center for Health Research, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Center for Research Resources and the Stanford Medical School Medical Scholars Research Fellowship.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center. The original article was written by Susan Young.

Journal Reference:

Jean Y. Tang, Teresa Fu, Erin Leblanc, Joann E. Manson, David Feldman, Eleni Linos, Mara Z. Vitolins, Nathalie C. Zeitouni, Joseph Larson, Marcia L. Stefanick. Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Nonmelanoma and Melanoma Skin Cancer: Post Hoc Analyses of the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2011; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2011.34.5967

Kids who survive cancer more often get new tumors

By Frederik Joelving

Reuters Health

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who have beaten cancer once are at increased risk of developing new tumors down the road, researchers say.

They found skin cancers, which are usually considered relatively harmless, appeared to be an early warning sign of more aggressive disease.

"It could be a marker for patients at significant risk," Dr. Gregory Armstrong of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told Reuters Health.

"The take-home point is that the annual visit with your physician is very important, as is having your physician be aware of the guidelines," said Armstrong, whose findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

According to the report, there were 328,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the U.S. in 2005 -- a number that keeps growing as treatment gets better.

The new study tracked more than 14,000 kids who had survived cancer for at least five years, for up to 38 years after their diagnosis.

One in twenty, or five percent, developed a new cancer during the study. Over the next 15 years following that diagnosis, the chance that a person who'd beaten cancer twice would get a third type of cancer was 12 percent. And the risk went up if the patients had received radiation as part of their treatment in childhood.

The researchers also found that survivors whose second tumor was non-melanoma skin cancer were twice as likely to get another aggressive cancer in the next 15 years compared to survivors with a different second tumor.

"We have been aware now for a couple a decades that children who beat their first cancer may be at risk of developing second cancers, largely as a result of the treatment they receive," said Armstrong.

He said the new results strengthen the case for starting cancer screening early in survivors, following guidelines developed by the Children's Oncology Group and available at http://www.survivorshipguidelines.org/.

For instance, the group recommends starting mammograms at age 25 instead of age 40 or 50 if women have been treated for cancer with chest radiation as kids.

But it's not all bad news, said Armstrong.

"If you go back 50 years there were very few children surviving cancer," he explained. "Now we cure 80 percent of childhood cancers."

Source: http://bit.ly/iKPSKg

Journal of Clinical Oncology, online June 27, 2011.

Does Grilling Kill E. Coli O157:H7?

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — Top sirloin steaks have been getting a grilling in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food safety studies. USDA microbiologist John B. Luchansky and his colleagues are conducting experiments to help make sure that neither the foodborne pathogen Escherichia coli O157:H7 nor any of its pathogenic relatives will ruin the pleasure of eating this popular entrée.

The scientists are learning more about the movement of E. coli into "subprimals," the meat from which top sirloin steaks are carved. Their focus is on what happens to the E. coli when subprimals are punctured-as part of being tenderized-and the effect of cooking on survival of those microbes.

Luchansky is with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), based at the agency's Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa. ARS is the USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

In early studies, the researchers applied various levels of E. coli O157:H7 to the "lean-side" surface of subprimals, ran the meat (lean side up) through a blade tenderizer, and then took core samples from 10 sites on each subprimal, to a depth of about 3 inches. In general, only 3 to 4 percent of the E. coli O157:H7 cells were transported to the geometric center of the meat. At least 40 percent of the cells remained in the top 0.4 inch.

Next, the group applied E. coli to the lean-side surface of more subprimals, put the meat through a blade tenderizer, then sliced it into steaks with a thickness of three-fourths of an inch, 1 inch, or 1.25 inches. Using a commercial open-flame gas grill, they cooked the steaks-on both sides-to an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (very rare), 130 degrees F (rare), or 140 degrees F (medium rare).

The findings confirmed that if a relatively low level of E. coli O157:H7 is distributed throughout a blade-tenderized top sirloin steak, proper cooking on a commercial gas grill is effective for eliminating the microbe.

Luchansky conducted the studies with Wyndmoor colleagues Jeffrey E. Call, Bradley A. Shoyer, and Anna C.S. Porto-Fett; Randall K. Phebus of Kansas State University; and Harshavardhan Thippareddi of the University of Nebraska.

 Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Soluble Fiber Strikes a Blow to Belly Fat

ScienceDaily

Monday, June 27, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 27, 2011) — All fat is not created equal. Unsightly as it is, subcutaneous fat, the fat right under the skin, is not as dangerous to overall health as visceral fat, the fat deep in the belly surrounding vital organs.

According to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the way to zero in and reduce visceral fat is simple: eat more soluble fiber from vegetables, fruit and beans, and engage in moderate activity.

The study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. In addition, increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.

"We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease," said Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study. "Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact."

Ten grams of soluble fiber can be achieved by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas and one-half cup of pinto beans; moderate activity means exercising vigorously for 30 minutes, two to four times a week, Hairston added.

In the longitudinal study, published in the June 16 online issue of the journal Obesity, researchers examined whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat of African Americans and Hispanic Americans, populations at a disproportionally higher risk for developing high blood pressure and diabetes and accumulating visceral fat.

At the beginning of the study, which involved 1,114 people, the participants were given a physical exam, an extensive questionnaire on lifestyle issues, and a CT scan, the only accurate way to measure how much subcutaneous and visceral fat the participants had. Five years later, the exact same process was repeated.

Researchers found that increased soluble fiber intake was associated with a decreased rate of accumulated visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat.

"There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don't know how it works," Hairston said. "Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits."

Hairston's next study, expected to be in clinical trials later this summer, will examine whether increasing soluble fiber with a widely available fiber supplement will produce similar results to those obtained in this study using soluble fiber from food.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Kristen G. Hairston, Mara Z. Vitolins, Jill M. Norris, Andrea M. Anderson, Anthony J. Hanley, Lynne E. Wagenknecht. Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.171

Diabetic Girls May Have Heart Risk Factors

By By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, June 27, 2011

MONDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that girls and young women with type 1 diabetes show signs of risk factors for cardiovascular disease at an early age.

The findings don't definitively prove that type 1 diabetes, the kind that often begins in childhood, directly causes the risk factors, and heart attack and stroke remain rare in young people. But they do spotlight the differences between the genders when it comes to the risk of heart problems for diabetics, said study co-author Dr. R. Paul Wadwa, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

"We're seeing measurable differences early in life, earlier than we expected," he said. "We need to make sure we're screening appropriately for cardiovascular risk factors, and with girls, it seems like it's even more important."

According to Wadwa, diabetic adults are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease than others without diabetes. Diabetic women, in particular, seem to lose some of the protective effects that their gender provides against heart problems, Wadwa said.

"Women are protected from cardiovascular disease in the pre-menopausal state probably because they are exposed to sex hormones, mainly estrogen," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, a clinical medicine professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "This protection may be ameliorated or lost in individuals with diabetes."

It's not clear, however, when diabetic females begin to lose their advantage. In the new study, Wadwa and colleagues looked specifically at type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes since it's often diagnosed in childhood.

The researchers tested 402 children and young adults aged 12 to 19 from the Denver area. Some had type 1 diabetes and others did not.

Among those with diabetes, females had higher blood sugar and cholesterol levels and were more overweight than males. High blood sugar, high cholesterol and excess weight all boost the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"While generally we don't see heart attack and stroke in teenagers, we know that what we see in teenagers lays the groundwork for later in life," Wadwa said. "Measurable differences in these factors at such a young age puts them at a higher risk later on in life."

It's not clear, however, whether other factors like obesity could explain the risk factors, he said.

For pediatricians, the study shows the importance of keeping close track of diabetic teens, and urging a healthy diet, exercise and medication if necessary, Wadwa said.

But Zonszein said the usefulness of the study is limited because it doesn't provide a new message. However, he added, it does offer valid advice about the importance of a healthy diet, proper exercise and control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The study was scheduled to be released Monday at an American Diabetes Association meeting in San Diego. Experts note that research presented at meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a medical journal.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more on type 1 diabetes.

Alzheimer's Prevention in Your Pantry

ScienceDaily

Monday, June 27, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 27, 2011) — Alzheimer's, the degenerative brain disorder that disrupts memory, thought and behavior, is devastating to both patients and loved ones. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight Americans over the age of 65 suffers from the disease. Now Tel Aviv University has discovered that an everyday spice in your kitchen cupboard could hold the key to Alzheimer's prevention.

An extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that can inhibit the development of the disease, according to Prof. Michael Ovadia of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. His research, conducted in collaboration with Prof. Ehud Gazit, Prof. Daniel Segal and Dr. Dan Frenkel, was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Taking a cue from the ancient world

Prof. Ovadia was inspired to investigate the healing properties of cinnamon by a passage in the Bible. It describes high priests using the spice in a holy ointment, he explains, presumably meant to protect them from infectious diseases during sacrifices. After discovering that the cinnamon extract had antiviral properties, Prof. Ovadia empirically tested these properties in both laboratory and animal Alzheimer's models.

The researchers isolated CEppt by grinding cinnamon and extracting the substance into an aqueous buffer solution. They then introduced this solution into the drinking water of mice that had been genetically altered to develop an aggressive form of Alzheimer's disease, and fruit flies that had been mutated with a human gene that also stimulated Alzheimer's disease and shortened their lifespan.

After four months, the researchers discovered that development of the disease had slowed remarkably and the animals' activity levels and longevity were comparable to that of their healthy counterparts. The extract, explains Prof. Ovadia, inhibited the formation of toxic amyloid polypeptide oligomers and fibrils, which compose deposits of plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

In the test-tube model, the substance was also found to break up amyloid fibers, similar to those collected in the brain to kill neurons. According to Prof. Ovadia, this finding indicates that CEppt may not just fight against the development of the disease, but may help to cure it after Alzheimer's molecules have already formed. In the future, he says, the team of researchers should work towards achieving the same result in animal models.

Adding a dash of cinnamon

Don't rush to your spice rack just yet, however. It would take far more than a toxic level of the spice -- more than 10 grams of raw cinnamon a day -- to reap the therapeutic benefits. The solution to this medical catch-22, Prof. Ovadia says, would be to extract the active substance from cinnamon, separating it from the toxic elements.

"The discovery is extremely exciting. While there are companies developing synthetic AD inhibiting substances, our extract would not be a drug with side effects, but a safe, natural substance that human beings have been consuming for millennia," says Prof. Ovadia.

Though it can't yet be used to fight Alzheimer's, cinnamon still has its therapeutic benefits -- it can also help prevent viral infections when sprinkled into your morning tea.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

Journal Reference:

Anat Frydman-Marom, Aviad Levin, Dorit Farfara, Tali Benromano, Roni Scherzer-Attali, Sivan Peled, Robert Vassar, Daniel Segal, Ehud Gazit, Dan Frenkel, Michael Ovadia. Orally Administrated Cinnamon Extract Reduces β-Amyloid Oligomerization and Corrects Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease Animal Models. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (1): e16564 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016564

BPA makes male mice act like females: study

By Peter Parks

Agence France-Presse

Monday, June 27, 2011

Male mice who were exposed as babies to BPA, a chemical common in canned foods and plastic containers, act more like females and are seen as less desirable mates, a US study showed Monday.

The findings could have implications for how BPA, or Bisphenol A, may affect human development and behavior, said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The BPA-exposed deer mice in our study look normal; there is nothing obviously wrong with them. Yet, they are clearly different," said lead author Cheryl Rosenfeld at the University of Missouri.

"Females do not want to mate with BPA-exposed male deer mice, and BPA-exposed males perform worse on spatial navigation tasks that assess their ability to find female partners in the wild."

Mother deer mice were fed a diet with levels of BPA that were proportional to the amount the US government considers safe for pregnant women to ingest.

The lab mice were fed this diet for two weeks prior to breeding and throughout lactation.

After their babies were weaned, the offspring were fed a BPA-free diet and their behaviors were monitored into adulthood.

The male mice who were exposed to BPA showed less ability to navigate a maze safely. This skill -- useful in the search for potential mating partners -- is well developed only in male mice, since females do not seek out mates.

"The untreated mice quickly learned the most direct approach to finding the correct hole, while the exposed males appeared to employ a random, inefficient trial and error strategy," said the study.

When scientists observed how fertile females regarded the BPA males compared to the unexposed males, they found females preferred the chemical-free males by a factor of two to one.

"These findings presumably have broad implications to other species, including humans, where there are also innate differences between males and females in cognitive and behavioral patterns," Rosenfeld said.

"Whether there are comparable health threats to humans remains unclear, but there clearly must be a concern."

The US Food and Drug Administration has noted "some concern" with BPA, an industrial chemical that has been widely used in packaging since the 1960s, and is studying the risks of exposure, the regulatory agency said in January 2010.

The European Union and Canada have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. However, there is no scientific consensus on the dangers BPA poses, the study said.

How Cavity-Causing Microbes Invade Heart

ScienceDaily

Monday, June 27, 2011

ScienceDaily (June 27, 2011) — Scientists have discovered the tool that bacteria normally found in our mouths use to invade heart tissue, causing a dangerous and sometimes lethal infection of the heart known as endocarditis. The work raises the possibility of creating a screening tool -- perhaps a swab of the cheek, or a spit test -- to gauge a dental patient's vulnerability to the condition.

The identification of the protein that allows Streptococcus mutans to gain a foothold in heart tissue is reported in the June issue of Infection and Immunity by microbiologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

S. mutans is a bacterium best known for causing cavities. The bacteria reside in dental plaque -- an architecturally sophisticated goo composed of an elaborate molecular matrix created by S. mutans that allows the bacteria to inhabit and thrive in our oral cavity. There, they churn out acid that erodes our teeth.

Normally, S. mutans confines its mischief to the mouth, but sometimes, particularly after a dental procedure or even after a vigorous bout of flossing, the bacteria enter the bloodstream. There, the immune system usually destroys them, but occasionally -- within just a few seconds -- they travel to the heart and colonize its tissue, especially heart valves. The bacteria can cause endocarditis -- inflammation of heart valves -- which can be deadly. Infection by S. mutans is a leading cause of the condition.

"When I first learned that S. mutans sometimes can live in the heart, I asked myself: Why in the world are these bacteria, which normally live in the mouth, in the heart? I was intrigued. And I began investigating how they get there and survive there," said Jacqueline Abranches, Ph.D., a microbiologist and the corresponding author of the study.

Abranches and her team at the University's Center for Oral Biology discovered that a collagen-binding protein known as CNM gives S. mutans its ability to invade heart tissue. In laboratory experiments, scientists found that strains with CNM are able to invade heart cells, and strains without CNM are not.

When the team knocked out the gene for CNM in strains where it's normally present, the bacteria were unable to invade heart tissue. Without CNM, the bacteria simply couldn't gain a foothold; their ability to adhere was about one-tenth of what it was with CNM.

The team also studied the response of wax worms to the various strains of S. mutans. They found that strains without CNM were rarely lethal to the worms, while strains with the protein were lethal 90 percent of the time. Then, when Abranches' team knocked out CNM in those strains, they were no longer lethal -- those worms thrived.

The work may someday enable doctors to prevent S. mutans from invading heart tissue. Even sooner, though, since some strains of S. mutans have CNM and others do not, the research may enable doctors to gauge a patient's vulnerability to a heart infection caused by the bacteria.

Abranches has identified five specific strains of S. mutans that carry the CNM protein, out of more than three dozen strains examined. CNM is not found in the most common type of S. mutans found in people, type C, but is present in rarer types of S. mutans, including types E and F.

"It may be that CNM can serve as a biomarker of the most virulent strains of S. mutans," said Abranches, a research assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "When patients with cardiac problems go to the dentist, perhaps those patients will be screened to see if they carry the protein. If they do, the dentist might treat them more aggressively with preventive antibiotics, for example."

Until more research is done and a screening or preventive tool is in place, Abranches says the usual advice for good oral health still stands for everyone.

"No matter what types of bacteria a person has in his or her mouth, they should do the same things to maintain good oral health. They should brush and floss their teeth regularly -- the smaller the number of S. mutans in your mouth, the healthier you'll be. Use a fluoride rinse before you go to bed at night. And eat a healthy diet, keeping sugar to a minimum," added Abranches.

Abranches presented the work at a recent conference on the "oral microbiome" hosted by the University's Center for Oral Biology. The center is part of the Medical Center's Eastman Institute for Oral Health, a world leader in research and post-doctoral education in general and pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, and oral surgery.

Additional authors of the study include laboratory technician James Miller; former technician Alaina Martinez; Patricia Simpson-Haidaris, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine; Robert Burne, Ph.D., of the University of Florida; and Abranches' husband, Jose Lemos, Ph.D., of the Center for Oral Biology, who is also assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The work was funded by the American Heart Association.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Rochester Medical Center.

Journal Reference:

J. Abranches, J. H. Miller, A. R. Martinez, P. J. Simpson-Haidaris, R. A. Burne, J. A. Lemos. The Collagen-Binding Protein Cnm Is Required for Streptococcus mutans Adherence to and Intracellular Invasion of Human Coronary Artery Endothelial Cells. Infection and Immunity, 2011; 79 (6): 2277 DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00767-10

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Calories, Not Protein or Carbs, Are Key to Weight Loss: Study

By By Alan Mozes

HealthDay News

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SUNDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Curbing calories is the key ingredient for diabetics seeking to lose weight, and low-fat diets that are either high in protein or high in carbs are equally effective, researchers say.

"I think there are two key messages from this study," said study lead author Jeremy D. Krebs, a senior lecturer with the school of medicine and health sciences at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand. "The first is that no matter what diet we prescribe, people find it extremely difficult to sustain the changes from their habitual diet over a long time. But if they are able to follow either a high-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet, they can achieve modest weight loss."

Krebs said this first message conveys flexibility and allows people to choose the approach that best suits them and "even to swap between dietary approaches when they get bored."

The second point "is that for people with diabetes, if they can adhere to either diet and achieve weight loss, then they do get benefits in terms of their diabetes control and cardiovascular risk," he added.

Krebs and his colleagues are scheduled to report their findings Sunday in San Diego at the American Diabetes Association meeting.

To compare the potential benefits of two popular dietetic approaches, the authors tracked nearly 300 overweight men and women between the ages of 35 and 75 who were on a new, two-year nutritional program.

To start, all the participants had a body mass index greater than 27, meaning they were moderately overweight, and all had type 2 diabetes.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to one of two groups: a low-fat/high-protein group or a low-fat/high-carb group.

For the first half year, all attended twice-weekly group sessions led by a dietitian; for the following six months, sessions took place monthly.

Weight and waist circumference were measured at six months, one year, and two years. Kidney function and lipid (blood fats) profiles were also assessed throughout.

Food diaries indicated that total calorie intake went down in both groups. Ultimately, both groups lost a similar amount of weight and reduced their waist size in similar measure, the investigators found. And by the end of the two-year period, both groups had similar blood fat profiles.

Krebs and his colleagues concluded that their "real-world" experiment demonstrated that both approaches afford similar benefits, with the principal driving factor behind sustained weight loss being calorie reduction rather than either high-carb or high-protein consumption.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the observations were "not at all surprising."

"This is pretty consistent with other research out there that has conducted other long-term comparisons in the general population," she said. "In the first six months you might see a little better benefit from a high-protein approach. But long-term, the initial benefits from a high-protein diet seem to diminish over time, and the two diets end up being essentially equivalent," Sandon explained.

"The bottom-line is that the issue for weight loss is calories," Sandon added. "Not where those calories come from. You need to create an energy deficit to lead to weight loss, and that happens by decreasing those calories. That's just been shown again and again."

Experts note that research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more on nutrition and diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

After Diabetes Diagnosis, Concentrate on Dietary Changes, Study Says

By By Alan Mozes

HealthDay News

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SATURDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- Dietary changes alone can yield the same benefits as changes in both diet and exercise in the first year after a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new study contends.

English researchers found that patients who were encouraged to lose weight by modifying their diet with the help of a dietician had the same improvements in blood sugar (glycemic) control, weight loss, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as those who changed both their diet and physical activity levels (30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week).

Both groups achieved about a 10 percent improvement in blood sugar control, cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to patients who received routine care. The two intervention groups also lost an average of 4 percent of their body weight, while those in a routine care group had little or no weight loss.

Patients in the routine care group were also three times more likely than those in the intervention groups to start on diabetes medication before the end of the study.

"Getting people to exercise is quite difficult, and can be expensive," lead researcher Rob Andrews, a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, said in an American Diabetes Association news release. "What this study tells us is that if you only have a limited amount of money, in that first year of diagnosis, you should focus on getting the diet right."

He pointed out, however, that the study participants with type 2 diabetes preferred to engage in both exercise and dietary changes. "They found diet alone quite negative," he said. One reason they might not have seen an additional benefit from exercise, he added, "is because people often make a trade. That is, if they go to the gym, then they feel as if they can have a treat. That could be why we saw no difference in the weight loss for the diet plus exercise group."

Andrews suggested that future research focus on determining whether adding exercise at a later time would make more of a difference.

"[Blood glucose] control gets worse over time. In the early stages, people tend to make rapid improvements and then it stays the same for a while. Adding exercise later might provide another boost in control whereas it wouldn't early on," Andrews said.

The study results were slated to be reported June 24 at a symposium run by the ADA and The Lancet at the ADA's Scientific Sessions meeting in San Diego.

A second study to be presented at the symposium found that intensive treatment of type 2 diabetes led to a slight reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors.

For that study, nearly half a million people in Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were screened for diabetes. The 3,057 people who were found to have the disease were assigned to receive either intensive treatment or routine care.

Intensive treatment included lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, healthier eating, more physical activity), aspirin treatment, and intensive medication treatment for blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids (blood fats). Those assigned to routine care were instructed to use national guidelines for advice on lifestyle and medical treatment.

Patients in the intensive treatment group showed clinically significant reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol and small decreases in weight and blood sugar levels maintained over a five-year period. The differences were greatest in the reducing the risk of heart attack and smallest in reducing the risk of stroke.

There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in rates of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular deaths or revascularization, according to the news release.

Experts noted that research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in a medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes.