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Exercise, self-help improve knee arthritis

ArthritisMay 18 06

Exercise and education may give people with knee arthritis a small but important physical and emotional lift, a research review suggests.

In an analysis of 16 studies, researchers at San Diego State University found that both exercise therapy and self-management programs tended to lessen the overall burden of having knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Exercise generally improved arthritis patients’ physical functioning, whereas self-management programs—which teach people how to deal with the daily ups and downs of living with knee OA—tended to boost their psychological well-being.

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Program helps disabled elderly stay independent

Public HealthMay 18 06

Working collaboratively with older people who are having difficulties with bathing, dressing themselves and other activities of daily living can help them to remain independent, a new study shows.

Dr. Laura N. Gitlin of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, the study’s lead author and her colleagues tested a six-month intervention in which people received four 90-minute visits with an occupational therapist, as well as one 20-minute telephone contact, and one 90-minute physical therapy visit.

Of 319 men and women 70 and older, half were assigned to the intervention, and half received no training.

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US advisers back Parkinson’s dementia drug

Drug NewsMay 18 06

Novartis Pharmaceuticals’ drug Exelon is safe for treating dementia in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a U.S. advisory panel recommended on Wednesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel of outside experts voted unanimously that the drug, already sold to treat Alzheimer’s disease, could also be used to treat Parkinson’s patients with dementia.

The FDA will make the final decision on whether to approve the additional use, but the agency usually follows its panelists’ advice.

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Bone-building drug helpful in rheumatoid arthritis

ArthritisMay 18 06

Zoledronic acid, used to inhibit the breakdown of bone and ward off the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, could also be helpful to people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers report.

According to the results of a small proof-of-concept study, zoledronic acid—also known as zoledronate or Aclasta—increases the benefits seen when treating early rheumatoid arthritis with the standard drug, methotrexate.

As reported in the medical journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, Dr. Paul Emery, from Chapel Allerton Hospital in Leeds, UK, and colleagues used MRI scans to assess joint erosions in 39 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis who were assigned to receive placebo or zoledronic infusions in addition to methotrexate therapy.

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Genetic testing can improve newborn screening tests for hearing defects

Eye / Vision ProblemsMay 18 06

Researchers have identified several changes that could be made to existing newborn screening tests for hearing defects that could advance the standard of care in detecting deaf infants, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Walter E. Nance, M.D., Ph.D., professor of human genetics in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, and Cynthia C. Morton, Ph.D., a professor of human genetics at the Harvard Medical School, have summarized four important criteria to be considered for screening programs throughout the country for newborn hearing defects. These include the prompt confirmation of abnormal results from screening tests; adoption of an etiologic focus to determine the cause of the deafness; initiation of molecular genetic testing for all newborns; and better recognition of infants at risk for late-onset hearing loss occurring prior to speech and language development.

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Acidity in the brain could hold the key to stroke treatment

StrokeMay 17 06

Development of a new technique for detecting brain damage caused by stroke has been boosted up by a ?1m grant to scientists at The University of Manchester.

Professor Gareth Morris of the School of Chemistry and Professor Risto Kauppinen of the University of Birmingham are to lead the development of a new non-invasive technique which measures acidity (pH) in the brain.

A stroke is caused when part of the blood supply to the brain is cut off. This causes acidity in the brain to build up, leading to damage.

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An Injury That Heals

Public HealthMay 17 06

Louis Pasteur said that “chance favors the prepared mind.” For Prof. Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute’s Biological Regulation Department, some completely unexpected results of biopsies performed on women with fertility problems have led to a new path of scientific discovery that may hold hope for women trying to conceive.

Dekel and a research team that includes Drs. Yael Kalma and Yulia Gnainsky, working in collaboration with Drs. Amichai Barash and Irit Granot of the Kaplan Medical Center, had been investigating a protein they suspected plays a role in the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus -  a crucial and sometimes failure-prone process. The team took biopsies at several stages in the menstrual cycles of 12 women with long histories of fertility problems and unsuccessful IVF treatments to see if levels of this protein changed over the course of the cycle.

Indeed, the team’s research went according to plan and they found evidence pointing to the protein’s role. The surprise came soon after: Of the 12 women participating in the study, 11 became pregnant during the next round of IVF. The idea of biopsy incisions, basically small wounds, leading to such a positive outcome was counterintuitive, and Dekel realized something interesting was happening. She and her team repeated the biopsies, this time on a group of 45 volunteers, and compared the results to a control group of 89 women who did not undergo biopsy. The results were clear: The procedure doubled a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.

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Plasminogen activator inhibitor type 2 may play role in infection and dry eye

Eye / Vision ProblemsMay 17 06

Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor Type 2 (PAI-2), a protein found in various cell types including the skin, has been discovered in the tissue covering the eye and may have future clinical implications in various pathologies of the ocular surface such as eye infection or dry eye, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.

The researchers, led by Mina Massaro-Giordano, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute, and Marcella Macaluso, Ph.D., of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research at Temple University, published their study,

“Cytoplasmic and nuclear interaction between Rb family proteins and PAI-2: a physiological crosstalk in human corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells,” in Cell Death and Differentiation (http://www.nature.com/cdd).

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WHO confirms six bird flu cases in Indonesia

FluMay 17 06

The World Health Organization confirmed six more human cases of bird flu infections in Indonesia on Wednesday, including five members of a family whose case has triggered fears of human-to-human transmission.

“There are six confirmations. One from Surabaya and five from Medan. One from Medan is still alive,” said Sari Setiogi, the WHO’s Indonesia spokeswoman.

An outbreak of H5N1 bird flu involving up to eight members of a family at Medan in North Sumatra province has worried health agencies around the world but a Health Ministry official said on Wednesday it was not a case of human-to-human transmission.

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Reduced Cabin Pressure, Oxygen Finds No Activation of Blood Clotting System

HeartMay 17 06

Researchers simulating conditions of reduced cabin pressure and reduced oxygen levels, such as may be encountered during an 8 hour airplane flight, found no increase in the activation of the blood clotting system among healthy individuals, according to a study in the May 17 issue of JAMA.

Venous thromboembolism (blood clots in vein) has been associated with long-haul air travel, but it has been unclear whether this is due to the effects of sitting for a long time, or whether there is a relationship with some other specific factor in the airplane environment, according to background information in the article. One hypothesis has been that hypoxia (reduced oxygen in the blood), associated with decreased cabin pressure that occurs at altitude, produces changes in blood that increases the risk for blood clots.

William D. Toff, M.D., of the University of Leicester, England, and colleagues conducted a study, from September 2003 to November 2005, to assess the effects of hypoxia in conditions similar to that which might be encountered during commercial air travel, on a variety of markers of activation of the hemostatic (blood clotting) system. The study included 73 healthy volunteers who spent 8 hours seated in a hypobaric (below normal pressure) chamber and were exposed to hypobaric hypoxia, similar to the conditions that would occur with reduced airplane cabin pressure at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. Blood was drawn before and after exposure to assess activation of factors associated with hemostasis (blood clotting). Similar measurements were taken of the volunteers who also spent 8 hours seated in a controlled environment equivalent to atmospheric conditions at ground level (normobaric exposure).

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Health Leaders Discuss Importance of Calcium and Vitamin D, Affirm Value of Research

Public HealthMay 16 06

The Society for Women’s Health Research convened experts on Capitol Hill yesterday to discuss recent results from a federal study to gauge the ability of calcium and vitamin D supplements to help prevent broken bones in women over 50. Initial news coverage said the study found no clear benefits, contradicting long held beliefs and confusing both patients and doctors. Health experts say the study results show benefits for some groups and guidelines for the nutrients remain unchanged.

“The Women’s Health Initiative’s calcium and vitamin D supplemental trial showed that women over the age of 60 had a 21 percent reduction in risk for hip fracture,” said Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of the Society. “Women who took a full dose of calcium, as directed by the study, had a 29 percent decrease in risk.”

Despite these findings, many headlines about this federally-funded research trial were negative and misleading.

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Breast-feeding curbs obesity in at-risk kids

DiabetesMay 16 06

Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are liable to have large babies, which in turn can lead to obesity in childhood—but that chain of events may be interrupted if the mother breast-feeds, researchers report.

Diabetes that develops during pregnancy is termed gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM. “In a recent study of infants of mothers who had GDM, we demonstrated that parental obesity and excessive intrauterine growth resulting in neonatal overweight independently contribute to early childhood obesity,” Dr. Ute M. Schaefer-Graf and colleagues explain in the medical journal Diabetes Care.

For their current study, the researchers from Vivantes Medical Center and Charite University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany, examined the association between breast-feeding and being overweight in early childhood in the same group of 324 children.

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Low fruit, vitamin C intake tied to asthma risk

AsthmaMay 16 06

People with symptomatic asthma eat less fruit and consume less vitamin C and manganese than people who don’t have the disease, a new study shows.

The findings suggest that “diet may be a potentially modifiable risk factor for the development of asthma,” Dr. N.J. Wareham of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK and colleagues write in the medical journal Thorax.

Several antioxidant nutrients have been linked to reduced asthma risk, Wareham and his team note, but it is not clear whether each of these nutrients plays a role in reducing risk or if they instead represent an overall healthier lifestyle.

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Bird flu not spread on the wings of wild birds

FluMay 16 06

According to a Dutch environmental organisation, the on-going fear that flocks of wild birds will spread the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu through Africa and Europe may be ill founded.

Wetlands International say laying the blame on the wild bird population is possibly an impulsive and dangerous conclusion.

H5N1 has been spreading steadily from Asia to Africa and Europe since 2003 and at least 113 people have died from the strain, which led to the slaughter of more than 200 million animals to prevent what health officials had warned could be a pandemic.

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Fifty more deaths in Angola from cholera

Public HealthMay 16 06

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) another 50 people have died from cholera in Angola in the last week.

To date this latest outbreak has killed 1,156 people in the country since mid-February and the epidemic is showing no signs of abating and is in fact still spreading.

The WHO says Angola has reported 30,612 cases of cholera since February and half have been in the province of Luanda.

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