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Researchers Draft 3-D Protein Map to Aid Stroke, Cancer Research

Cancer • • StrokeJun 26 09

A new three-dimensional computer protein map is helping researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) unravel the biological pathways that control brain-cell death after a stroke.

The new map will help identify new drug targets and test compounds to slow brain-cell death, halt brain cancer and improve pain control, the study authors said. The findings are published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Starting with known cell coordinates, biological structures and other data, UAB researchers focused on a protein called acid-sensing ion channel-1, or ASIC-1. This protein acts as a gateway on the surface of brain cells called neurons. The researchers generated a 3-D computer map of ASIC-1, which greatly simplifies the testing of any drug or compound designed to protect neurons, regulate their molecular interactions or isolate brain tumors.

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Migraine and Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Migraine Frequency Plays a Role

Headaches • • Heart • • MigraineJun 26 09

Women who have migraines with aura may be more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than women who don’t have the condition, and the association varies by migraine frequency, according to research published in the June 24, 2009, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. An aura is a visual or other sensory disturbance that occurs before the migraine starts, such as seeing bright lights.

The study found that women with migraine with aura whose migraines occur at least once a week are more than four times as likely to have a stroke as women who do not have migraines. Women with migraine with aura who have migraines less than once a month were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack and nearly twice as likely to have had heart procedures such as coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty. In contrast, women who had migraines with aura once a month had no increased risk of stroke or heart problems.

“These results should be interpreted with caution, since the number of migraine and migraine features were self-reported and there were relatively low numbers of stroke and heart problems in the large study group,” said study author and member of the American Academy of Neurology Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and INSERM, the French national research institute. “Nonetheless, more research is needed to determine how and why these differences occur and whether preventing migraines could reduce the risk of stroke and heart problems.”

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Can Hormone Treatment Ease Post-Surgery Behavior Changes in Children?

Children's Health • • Endocrinology • • SurgeryJun 26 09

A scary unknown for many children, the prospect of surgery can cause intense preoperative anxiety. While some amount of stress is normal, what many parents do not know is that extreme anxiety before surgery can contribute to the occurrence of emergence delirium, a distressing incidence of acute behavioral changes experienced when “waking up” from anesthesia.

Now in the July issue of Anesthesiology, physicians focused on reducing anxiety in children and their families report that oral treatment with melatonin before surgery can significantly reduce the occurrence of emergence delirium in children.

Affecting up to 20 percent of children who undergo surgery, emergence delirium in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) consists of acute behavior changes including crying, thrashing and need for restraint. According to researchers, this can also lead to the development of behavioral changes outside the recovery suite with the onset of nightmares, bed wetting and separation anxiety.

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Measuring intellectual disability

Neurology • • Psychiatry / PsychologyJun 24 09

Researchers from the University of California, Davis have developed a specific and quantitative means of measuring levels of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) protein (FMRP), which is mutated in fragile X syndrome. The related report by Iwahashi et al, “A quantitative ELISA assay for the fragile X mental retardation 1 protein,” appears in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

Fragile X syndrome is the most common form of inherited intellectual impairment. Nearly one third of patients diagnosed with fragile X syndrome also have some degree of autism, and the mutation underlying fragile X syndrome is the most commonly known single gene cause of autism.

Fragile X syndrome is caused by low levels of the FMRP protein, which is thought to play a role in communication between nerve cells. In patients with fragile X syndrome, a sequence in the FMR1 gene that is repeated 10-40 times in normal individuals may be repeated from 200 to more than 1,000 times, decreasing levels of the FMRP protein.

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Wildlife faces cancer threat

CancerJun 24 09

While cancer touches the lives of many humans, it is also a major threat to wild animal populations as well, according to a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

A newly published paper in the July edition of Nature Reviews Cancer compiles information on cancer in wildlife and suggests that cancer poses a conservation threat to certain species. The WCS authors highlight the critical need to protect both animals and people through increased health monitoring.

“Cancer is one of the leading health concerns for humans, accounting for more than 10 percent of human deaths,” said Dr. Denise McAloose, lead author and Chief Pathologist for WCS’s Global Health program. “But we now understand that cancer can kill wild animals at similar rates.”

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US group advises cuts in post-exposure rabies jabs

Immunology • • Public HealthJun 24 09

U.S. immunization advisers have recommended reducing the number of rabies shots needed to protect humans after exposure to a rabid animal in a move to conserve vaccine supplies.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACIP, which advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, voted on Wednesday to change the vaccine schedule from five doses to four, eliminating the last shot.

The move was intended to conserve vaccine supplies in the event of a vaccine shortage, which occurred from 2007 to 2009.

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Apple’s Jobs has “excellent prognosis”

Public HealthJun 24 09

Apple Inc chief executive Steve Jobs underwent a liver transplant at a Tennessee hospital and has “an excellent prognosis”, the hospital that performed the operation confirmed on Tuesday.

Jobs, 54, received the transplant because he was “the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available,” the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute said in a statement on its Website. http://www.methodisthealth.org/methodist/About+Us/Newsroom/News/Steve+Jobs+Receives+Liver+Transplant

“Mr. Jobs is now recovering well and has an excellent prognosis,” the statement said. James Eason, program director at the institute and the hospital’s chief of transplantation, added that the confirmation had come with Jobs’s permission.

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Green tea may slow prostate tumor growth

Cancer • • Prostate CancerJun 24 09

Antioxidant compounds in green tea may help slow the growth and progression of prostate cancer, a preliminary study suggests.

Researchers found that among 26 men with prostate cancer, short-term treatment with the green tea compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) lowered the patients’ blood levels of several proteins linked to prostate cancer progression.

EGCG is the main polyphenol in green tea; polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that, research suggests, may help prevent the cell damage that promotes cancer development and progression.

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Gene predicts how brain responds to fatigue, human study shows

Brain • • Neurology • • Psychiatry / PsychologyJun 24 09

New imaging research in the June 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience helps explain why sleep deprivation affects some people more than others. After staying awake all night, those who are genetically vulnerable to sleep loss showed reduced brain activity, while those who are genetically resilient showed expanded brain activity, the study found. The findings help explain individual differences in the ability to compensate for lack of sleep.

“The extent to which individuals are affected by sleep deprivation varies, with some crashing out and others holding up well after a night without sleep,” said Michael Chee, MBBS, at the Duke–National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, an expert on sleep deprivation who was not affiliated with the study. However, studying how the brain produces these behavioral differences is difficult: researchers usually do not know whether their study participants will be vulnerable to sleep deprivation until after a study is complete. Previous studies have shown conflicting results, perhaps because the study subjects differed widely in vulnerability to sleep deprivation.

In the current study, the researchers, led by Pierre Maquet, MD, at the University of Lìege in Belgium and Derk-Jan Dijk, PhD, at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, avoided this problem by selecting study participants based on their genes. Previous research showed that the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene predicts how people will respond to sleep deprivation. People carry either long or short variants of the gene. Those with the short PER3 variant are resilient to sleep loss — they perform well on cognitive tasks after sleep deprivation. However, those with the long PER3 variant are vulnerable — they show deficits in cognitive performance after sleep deprivation. Now the new study explains why.

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Biomarkers Predict Brain Tumor’s Response to Therapy

CancerJun 23 09

A report in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, highlights a new biomarker that may be useful in identifying patients with recurrent glioblastoma, or brain tumors, who would respond better to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy, specifically cediranib.

Cediranib is a highly potent inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor tyrosine kinases. It is an investigational, oral agent that is administered once daily. Using a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that looked at the mechanism of action of this agent, the researchers were able to determine, even as early as after a single dose of cediranib, those patients who benefited from the agent and those who did not.

“We found that results from an advanced MRI scan taken just a day after starting treatment correlated with survival. Combining MRI with blood biomarkers did an even better job of identifying patients who best responded to treatment,” said researcher A. Gregory Sorensen, M.D., associate professor of radiology and health sciences and technology at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital. “If this approach is validated in larger studies, we could use these tools to keep patients on therapies that their tumors respond to, and shift non-responders to other therapies much earlier.”

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Music, cardiovascular rhythms fall in sync

HeartJun 23 09

Music may indeed soothe the savage breast, according to a study showing that people’s cardiovascular rhythms tend to fall in step with musical ones.

In a study published Monday in the journal Circulation, Italian researchers found that healthy adults’ heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow changed in response to musical crescendos and decrescendos.

Using several classical music selections, the investigators found that musical crescendos—a gradual increase in volume and intensity—generally led to increases in blood vessel constriction, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. The opposite was true with decrescendos, a gradual decrease in the music’s volume.

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Americans struggle to pay for healthcare: study

Public HealthJun 22 09

Americans are struggling to pay for healthcare in the ongoing economic recession, with a quarter saying they have had trouble in the past 12 months, according to a survey released on Monday.

Baby boomers—the generation born between 1946 and 1964—had the most trouble and were the most likely to put off medical treatments or services, said researchers at Center for Healthcare Improvement, part of the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters.

The study, available here, found that 17.4 percent of households reported postponing or delaying healthcare over the past year.

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Cher struggles, but supports child’s sex change

Public Health • • Sexual HealthJun 22 09

Cher has struggled to understand her child’s decision to have a sex change operation but remains supportive and respectful of the courage it takes, the pop star said in a statement on Thursday.

Formerly Chastity Bono, the 40-year-old is the child of Cher and Sonny Bono and now goes by the name Chaz Bono. Chaz has begun operations and hormone treatments to become a man.

“Chaz is embarking on a difficult journey, but one that I will support,” Cher, 63, said in a statement to People magazine and other celebrity media outlets.

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School of Dentistry Studies Link Between Oral Health and Memory

Dental Health • • NeurologyJun 22 09

Keeping your teeth brushed and flossed can cut down on gum disease, drastically reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, dentists have warned for years. Now researchers at West Virginia University have found a clean mouth may also help preserve memory.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.3 million grant over four years to further build on studies linking gum disease and mild to moderate memory loss.

“Older people might want to know there’s more reason to keep their mouths clean – to brush and floss – than ever,” said Richard Crout, D.M.D., Ph.D., an expert on gum disease and associate dean for research in the WVU School of Dentistry. “You’ll not only be more likely to keep your teeth, but you’ll also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and memory loss.”

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The Joys of Fatherhood and Men’s Health

Public HealthJun 17 09

There are over 8 million fathers in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. Research has shown that a father’s involvement can affect the well-being of his children, but what about the impact of being a father on the man himself? Whether you’re expecting to be a dad or you’ve been one for years, having a child will change the way you live your life. Fatherhood is a central aspect of many men’s lives and can have both positive and negative effects on their health.

With Father’s Day just around the corner and in light of Men’s Health Week (June 15-21), CIHR experts are available to talk about the impact of fatherhood on men’s physical and psychological health, and vice-versa.


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