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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Brain


During exercise, the human brain shifts into high gear on ‘alternative energy’

BrainSep 30 08

Alternative energy is all the rage in major media headlines, but for the human brain, this is old news. According to a study by researchers from Denmark and The Netherlands published in the October 2008 print issue of The FASEB Journal, the brain, just like muscles, works harder during strenuous exercise and is fueled by lactate, rather than glucose. Not only does this finding help explain why the brain is able to work properly when the body’s demands for fuel and oxygen are highest, but it goes a step further to show that the brain actually shifts into a higher gear in terms of activity. This opens doors to entirely new areas of brain research related to understanding lactate’s specific neurological effects.

“Now that we know the brain can run on lactate, so to speak, future studies should show us when to use lactate as part of a treatment,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “From an evolutionary perspective, the result of this study is a no-brainer. Imagine what could have or did happen to all of the organisms that lost their wits along with their glucose when running from predators. They were obviously a light snack for the animals able to use lactate.”

To reach their conclusion, the researchers looked at research that compared the blood running to and from the heads of volunteers undergoing strenuous exercise. They found that the blood on its way to the brain contained considerably more lactate than blood flowing from the brain.

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Study links birth size and breast cancer

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 30 08

Women who were bigger and longer babies may be more likely to develop breast cancer, researchers reported on Tuesday.

The study adds to evidence that, at least in some cases, something that happens in the womb may cause cancer later in life.

Previous research into links between birth size and breast cancer have proved inconsistent, but the findings published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine are strong evidence that the two may be related.

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Poor mood persists for breast cancer patients

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 30 08

Breast cancer survivors report feeling more fatigue and negative emotions in a typical day than their cancer-free peers, but round-the-clock monitoring demonstrates that their vital signs and level activity are no different, according to an international study.

The results “clearly point to the importance of complementary medical and psychosocial strategies for supporting posttreatment cancer patients,” conclude Dr. Paul Grossman of the University of Basel Hospital, Switzerland and colleagues in Germany and Canada.

While the physical and mental effects of cancer treatment are known to be long-lasting, how they correlate with actual physical processes like heart rate, breathing and activity levels are not well understood, Grossman and his team write in the medical journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

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Intestine liner helps weight loss, U.S. firm says

Weight LossSep 30 08

A U.S. company is developing a removable liner for the intestine that mimics some aspects of weight-loss surgery, offering obese people a nonsurgical way to drop weight and combat the most common form of diabetes.

GI Dynamics Inc. of Lexington, Massachusetts, said its EndoBarrier is intended for morbidly obese people who want to avoid procedures such as gastric bypass surgery. The company presented research on Friday showing the device helps obese people lose weight and lower blood sugar levels.

The device lines part of the intestines with a thin material similar to Teflon, keeping food from touching the intestinal walls, the company said.

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New study proves that pain is not a symptom of arthritis, pain causes arthritis

Arthritis • • PainSep 30 08

Pain is more than a symptom of osteoarthritis, it is an inherent and damaging part of the disease itself, according to a study published today in journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. More specifically, the study revealed that pain signals originating in arthritic joints, and the biochemical processing of those signals as they reach the spinal cord, worsen and expand arthritis. In addition, researchers found that nerve pathways carrying pain signals transfer inflammation from arthritic joints to the spine and back again, causing disease at both ends.

Technically, pain is a patient’s conscious realization of discomfort. Before that can happen, however, information must be carried along nerve cell pathways from say an injured knee to the pain processing centers in dorsal horns of the spinal cord, a process called nociception. The current study provides strong evidence that two-way, nociceptive “crosstalk” may first enable joint arthritis to transmit inflammation into the spinal cord and brain, and then to spread through the central nervous system (CNS) from one joint to another.

Furthermore, if joint arthritis can cause neuro-inflammation, it could have a role in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis. Armed with the results, researchers have identified likely drug targets that could interfere with key inflammatory receptors on sensory nerve cells as a new way to treat osteoarthritis (OA), which destroys joint cartilage in 21 million Americans. The most common form of arthritis, OA eventually brings deformity and severe pain as patients loose the protective cushion between bones in weight-bearing joints like knees and hips.

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Study finds association between hepatitis B and pancreatic cancer

Cancer • • Pancreatic cancer • • InfectionsSep 30 08

A new study has shown that evidence of past hepatitis B infection was twice as common in people with pancreatic cancer than in healthy controls. This study is the first to report an association between past exposure to the hepatitis B virus and pancreatic cancer, but researchers cautioned that more studies are necessary to evaluate the nature of the link.

“While our findings indicate that past exposure to hepatitis B is associated with the development of pancreatic cancer, more research is needed to determine whether this relationship is one of cause and effect,” said lead author Manal M. Hassan, MD, PhD, assistant professor at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. “If these findings can be confirmed by other studies, hepatitis B could be another risk factor for pancreatic cancer that is readily modifiable with treatment, and even preventable with a vaccine.”

In this study, Dr. Hassan and her colleagues compared evidence of hepatitis B and C infection (as determined by blood tests assessing antibodies to these viruses) between 476 patients with pancreatic cancer and 879 matched healthy individuals. Evidence of past exposure to hepatitis B was found in 7.6 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer versus 3.2 percent of controls. The association between hepatitis B exposure and pancreatic cancer remained statistically significant even after controlling for other risk factors, such as smoking. People with both diabetes (an established risk factor for pancreatic cancer) and hepatitis B exposure had a 7-fold increase in pancreatic cancer risk, compared to controls. No association was observed between hepatitis C exposure and pancreatic cancer.

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Sex bias seen in control of cancer pain

Cancer • • PainSep 29 08

How well pain is managed in people with cancer apparently differs between men and women, new research hints.

Dr. Kristine A. Donovan, of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, and colleagues examined pain severity and the adequacy of pain management in 131 cancer patients newly referred to a multidisciplinary cancer pain clinic.

Men and women did not differ significantly in terms of worst pain scores, least pain scores, or pain interference. However, average pain in the last week and pain right now were significantly higher in women.

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A Dipstick Test for Breast Cancer?

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 29 08

A few drops of urine may reveal whether a woman is at risk for breast cancer, researchers led by Marsha Moses, PhD, of the Vascular Biology Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, have found. In tests, the urine of women with each of two types of breast cancer had markedly elevated levels of certain biomarkers that indicate increased angiogenesis—known as MMP-9 and ADAM-12—as compared with controls.

The discoveries, licensed to the company Predictive Biosciences, may lead to simple “dipstick” tests for breast cancer, catching the disease at the earliest stages or spotting a resurgence before it becomes a threat. Potentially, women whose urine revealed a risk for breast cancer could get more frequent mammograms and make lifestyle changes to minimize the odds.

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Core Needle Breast Biopsies Safe for Patients Taking Blood Thinners

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 29 08

It is safe to take anticoagulants (blood thinners) before core needle breast biopsies, according to a study performed at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Clinic in Rochester, NY. Core needle biopsies are offered as an alternative to surgical biopsy when a tissue sample of an irregular area in the breast is found by mammogram or sonogram. “They are safer than surgical procedures, require fewer anesthetics, and are accurate,” according to Patricia Somerville, MD, lead author of the study.

The study included 200 women who were taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) and 855 women who were not. Adverse reactions, lumps and bruises, after a woman’s core needle biopsy were recorded. Results showed that lumps or bruising occurred in 34% of women who were taking blood thinners and 26.5% of women who were not taking them.

“Our study demonstrates that it is safe to perform core needle biopsies on patients taking aspirin and warfarin (another name for coumadin). Patients can remain on their medications and avoid surgical biopsy if the lesion is benign,” said Dr. Somerville.

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The Methodist Hospital Is First in Houston to Treat Breast Cancer with the Contura Applicator

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 29 08

A larger population of breast cancer patients now have a more effective treatment option for targeted partial breast radiation therapy that reduces treatment from months to days.

The Methodist Hospital is the first in Houston to use the Contura Brachytherapy procedure, which allows more breast cancer patients requiring targeted radiation therapy after a lumpectomy to be treated in five days, rather than six to seven weeks for whole-breast irradiation. In the past, few patients could take advantage of the accelerated treatment because the location of the tumor cavity was located too close to the skin and ribs.

The new Contura device allows Methodist physicians to control the radiation dose to the skin and ribs in a sophisticated manner by delivering treatment through five channels of therapy and target treatment from inside the breast. This new therapy also causes fewer cosmetic defects to the breast.

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Breast Cancer and Women Under Age 40: A Growing Concern

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 29 08

When anyone thinks of breast cancer, the face of a young woman doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yet, of the more than 200,000 women in the United States who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, about 11,000 will be under the age of 40.

“There are more younger women being diagnosed and we aren’t sure if this is due to earlier detection or if women are actually developing the disease younger,” said Deborah Kirkland, a former critical care nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32.

Kirkland, who had no family history of breast cancer when this occurred nearly seven years ago, saw a need to be filled.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer • • Breast CancerSep 29 08

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) is making experts available to discuss the risks, treatment and prevention options surrounding breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society more than nearly 183,000 patients nationwide will be diagnosed with the disease this year, with a little more than 6,300 new cases expected in New Jersey. And while the disease affects mostly women, men also can be diagnosed with breast cancer. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

CINJ experts available for comment include:

Deborah Toppmeyer, M.D., director, New Jersey Comprehensive Breast Care Center and director of the LIFE (Ladies Professional Golf Association In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer) Center at CINJ; and associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Toppmeyer can discuss the molecular characteristics of breast cancer and how targeted therapies are helping breast cancer patients improve their quality of life. She currently is working on a clinical trial focusing on a new drug combination for women with triple-negative breast cancer. In advanced breast cancer, such as triple-negative, combinations of chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells result in response rates between 40 and 70 percent; complete response rates or clinical remissions are rare. Although there has been progress in prolonging survival in breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, the majority of women die from their disease. Dr. Toppmeyer also specializes in young women with breast cancer, a growing population.

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Pertussis: Adults can fall severely ill too

Children's Health • • Respiratory ProblemsSep 25 08

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is not just a childhood disease. The pathogen Bordetella pertussis is highly infectious and an infection may occur at any age. The risk of a pertussis infection can be greatly reduced by vaccination, as Marion Riffelmann of the Krefeld Institute for Infectious Diseases and her colleagues report in the current Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105(37): 623-8).


Pertussis is actually one of the classical diseases of childhood and mainly occurs in unvaccinated babies.

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New approach to gene therapy may shrink brain tumors, prevent their spread

Cancer • • Brain CancerSep 25 08

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers are investigating a new approach to gene therapy for brain tumors – delivering a cancer-fighting gene to normal brain tissue around the tumor to keep it from spreading. An animal study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the first to test the feasibility of such an approach, found that inducing mouse brain cells to secrete human interferon-beta suppressed and eliminated growth of human glioblastoma cells implanted nearby.

“We had hypothesized that genetically engineering normal tissue surrounding a tumor could create a zone of resistance – a microenvironment that prevents the growth or spread of the tumor,” says Miguel Sena-Esteves, PhD, of the MGH Neuroscience Center, the study’s senior author. “This proof of principle study shows that this could be a highly effective approach, although there are many additional questions that need to be investigated.”

Glioblastoma is the most common and deadly form of brain tumor. Human clinical trials of other gene therapies have not significantly reduced tumor progression. One problem has been that patients’ immune systems target the viral vectors used to deliver cancer-eliminating genes.

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Fish in children’s diet cuts eczema risk: study

Allergies • • Dieting • • Skin CareSep 25 08

Feeding babies as little as one portion of fish before they are nine months old may cut their risk of developing eczema, Swedish researchers said on Thursday.

Introducing fish of any type into the diet curbed the risk of contracting the skin condition by 25 percent compared with children who never ate it, Bernt Alm, a pediatrician at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and colleagues reported in the British Medical Journal.

“The main finding was that early introduction of fish was beneficial,” Alm said in a telephone interview. “There was no link with the amount of fish or type of fish. We think it is more the timing of the introduction.”

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