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Researchers develop targeted approach to pain management

PainOct 04 07

Imagine an epidural or a shot of Novocain that doesn’t paralyze your legs or make you numb, yet totally blocks your pain. This type of pain management is now within reach. As a result, childbirth, surgery and trips to the dentist might be less traumatic in the future, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, who have succeeded in selectively blocking pain-sensing neurons in rats without interfering with other types of neurons.

The pint-sized subjects received injections near their sciatic nerves, which run down their hind limbs, and subsequently lost the ability to feel pain in their paws. But they continued to move normally and react to touch. The injections contained QX-314, a normally inactive derivative of the local anesthetic lidocaine, and capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers. In combination, these chemicals targeted only pain-sensing neurons, preventing them from sending signals to the brain.

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Anorexia may represent an addiction

Psychiatry / PsychologyOct 03 07

Scientists from France have found that anorexia and the highly addicting club-drug ecstasy activate some of the same brain pathways, a finding that may help explain the addictive nature of anorexia and other eating disorders and lead to new treatments.

In a paper published this week, Dr. Valerie Compan of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Montpellier, and colleagues report that both anorexia and ecstasy reduce the drive to eat by stimulating the same subset of receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin.

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Drop in antidepressant use seen during pregnancy

Drug News • • Pregnancy • • Psychiatry / PsychologyOct 03 07

A marked fall in antidepressant use occurs when women first learn that they are pregnant, according to a report.

“It is alarming to see that there is still a fear regarding antidepressant use during pregnancy. We knew that some women were going to discontinue using their antidepressants during pregnancy but we didn’t think it would be so prevalent and inappropriately used (amongst those who remain on it),” senior author Dr. Anick Berard told Reuters Health.

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Psoriasis drug shown highly effective in trial

Drug News • • Skin CareOct 03 07

Johnson & Johnson’s experimental treatment for psoriasis proved safe and highly effective in a late-stage trial, positioning it as a potential strong rival to current medicines, the company said on Wednesday.

More than two-thirds of patients with moderate to severe forms of the inflammatory skin condition achieved at least a 75 percent reduction in symptoms after 12 weeks of treatment with the injectable medicine CNTO 1275 (ustekinumab), J&J said.

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New York City’s infant mortality rate declined in 2006

Public HealthOct 03 07

New York City’s infant mortality rate – widely regarded as a barometer of a population’s general health – fell slightly in 2006, the Health Department reported today. The rate in 2006 was 5.9 infant deaths for every 1,000 births, down from 6.0 the previous year. The City has made major progress in reducing infant deaths since the early 1990s, when the rate was double what it is today, but the decline has leveled off in recent years. The Health Department also reported that in poorer sectors of the city, infant mortality rates are still double the citywide rate.

In 2006, there were 740 infant deaths (defined as deaths of infants less than a year old) out of 125,506 New York City births. The city’s infant mortality rate is still lower than the national rate, which was 6.8 per 1,000 births in 2004, the most recent year on record. The leading causes of infant death both in New York City and nationally are birth defects, premature birth, and low birth weight.

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Fetal cell ‘transplant’ could be a hidden link between childbirth and reduced risk of breast cancer

Pregnancy • • Breast CancerOct 02 07

Some benefits of motherhood are intangible, but one has been validated through biostatistical research: women who bear children have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. In Seattle, Washington, researchers at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center believe they have identified a source of this protective effect: fetal cells “transplanted” to the mother before birth.

Their findings are presented in the October 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Increasing young adult smoking linked to smoking in movies

Children's Health • • Tobacco & MarijuanaOct 02 07

Do young adults learn behaviors from movies? In a paper published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, examined the relationship between young adults (age 18-25) observing smoking in movies and the likelihood of starting to smoke. They found that more exposure to smoking in movies was significantly associated with young adults beginning to smoke or becoming established smokers.

After falling for several decades, the incidence of smoking in movies started increasing around 1990 and, by 2000 was comparable to 1950 levels. Young adulthood is the time when most adolescent experimenters either transition to regular use or stop smoking.

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New treatment for stroke works up to a day after symptoms start

Neurology • • StrokeOct 02 07

People treated with the drug minocycline within six to 24 hours after a stroke had significantly fewer disabilities, according to a study published in the October 2, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers say minocycline may be an alternative treatment for stroke because current treatments only work during the first few hours after the onset of symptoms, and many people don’t get to the hospital in time to be treated.

For the study, 152 men and women received either an oral dose of minocycline or placebo for five days following stroke. People who received minocycline were treated an average of 13 hours after stroke compared to 12 hours for the placebo group. Researchers followed both groups for three months.

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“Huffing” Linked With Suicidal Behavior in Incarcerated Teens

Children's Health • • Psychiatry / PsychologyOct 02 07

Inhaling, or “huffing,” the vapors of common household solvents strongly correlates with suicidal thoughts and behavior among adolescents.

That’s what researchers found in a study of 723 incarcerated youth—the first work to categorize inhalant use into levels of severity and relate this to suicidal ideas and suicide attempts in incarcerated juveniles. It is also one of the few studies to examine gender differences involved.

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