Saturday, June 2, 2012

Environmental health news from universities on the campaign trail 1


Time to jump into a new series with help from an existing one.
Sometimes when I'm preparing a linkspam, a distinct theme emerges connecting many of the week's articles. That's what inspired me to compose U.S.-China EcoPartnerships: The CoDominion plans for sustainability, one of my most read entries, as well as Universities studying and promoting civility in politics, among others.
That's how I opened Sustainability education news from campuses on the campaign trail, which spawned a sequel. It turns out that the bulk of the stories from last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition), after I stipped out the space and education stories, also has a theme--environmental health and safety and health as a sustainability issue. Looks like a good series idea to me. That written, here are the health stories from public universities in Kentucky, Texas, and Wisconsin for the week before Memorial Day over the jump.


University of Kentucky: New Study Shows How Nanotechnology Can Help Detect Disease Earlier
By Allyson Perry
LEXINGTON, KY. (May 21, 2012) — A new study led by University of Kentucky researchers shows a new way to precisely detect a single chemical at extremely low concentrations and high contamination.
The ability to detect a chemical at a low concentration and high contamination is especially important for environmental surveillance, homeland security, athlete drug monitoring, toxin/drug screening, and earlier disease diagnosis.

In the case of disease diagnosis, the production of an unusual metabolic product is a feature of disease, but in early stages, the concentration of this product is very low. Single molecule detection will facilitate the early detection of disease such as cancer, so as to facilitate earlier treatment.
Lexington Herald-Leader via University of Kentucky: Adapt Grilling Style To Help Avoid Cancer
By Karina Christopher
May 20, 2012
Memorial Day is coming up, and it’s the perfect time of year for cookouts and picnics. However, research shows that the meat we grill and how we grill it might increase our risk of cancer.

Diets high in red meat (including beef, lamb and pork) or processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, salami and pepperoni) can greatly increase your risk of colorectal cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, eating 3.5 ounces of processed meat every day increases colorectal cancer risk by 36 percent compared to eating no processed meat. After seven or more ounces, the risk of developing colorectal cancer is 72 percent higher.

Not only does your choice of meat matter, the chemicals found on the outside of meat during grilling might also increase your cancer risk.
Next up, a demonstration that everything is bigger in Texas, including the research.


Texas Tech University: Researchers Find Antibiotic Residues, One a Suspected Carcinogen, in Shrimp Samples
Texas Tech conducted the study for ABC's ‘World News with Diane Sawyer.’
Written by John Davis
May 21, 2012
After testing farm-raised shrimp samples of international origin for ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer,” researchers at Texas Tech found evidence of antibiotics – one a suspected human carcinogen – in seafood imported into the United States and purchased from grocery store shelves.

Ron Kendall, director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech, said researchers tested only the muscle tissues consumed by people. When concluded, they found that about 10 percent of the 30 samples tested contained evidence of three antibiotics.

Though the sample sizes were small, he said finding antibiotic residues at all is cause for concern. Todd Anderson, a professor of environmental toxicology, and instrument manager QingSong Cai conducted the shrimp analyses.
Texas Tech University: Researchers Still Play Big Role in Storm Shelter Development
A variety of shelters are now available, and they all seek one thing: Texas Tech's seal of approval.
Written by Karin Slyker
May 22, 2012
A flower grows from a crack in the concrete slab where a home once stood in Joplin, Mo. One year ago, an EF-5 tornado chewed through the town killing 161 people. Today, there are many new homes under construction, peppered with makeshift memorials where families lost loved ones.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Joplin tornado was one of among 1,688 confirmed that wrought havoc on the U.S. in 2011. It was the deadliest season since 1925.
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio: Revised ARDS definition sets out levels of severity
Goal is to detect most serious cases of deadly lung disease earlier
SAN ANTONIO (May 21, 2012) — An international task force today unveiled a revised definition of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a disease first recognized during the Vietnam War in casualties with limb injuries who had trouble breathing.

The new definition includes a distinction between the most serious cases of ARDS and cases that are less advanced, said Antonio Anzueto, M.D., of UT Medicine San Antonio, a pulmonologist who served on the ARDS Definition Task Force. The guidelines are based on evidence from data of more than 4,000 patients with ARDS, including 200 from San Antonio.

The guidelines, called the Berlin Definition, are described in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This paper represents a more vigilant approach to identification and diagnosis of ARDS, which doesn’t necessarily begin in the lungs, Dr. Anzueto said. “This new stratification of severity will make clinicians aware the process is starting and interventions have to be applied almost immediately to prevent the disease from progressing,” he said.
University of Texas at Austin: The University of Texas Researchers Win Grant to Develop Drug to Treat Addiction
May 24, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are teaming up to develop medication to treat alcoholism and drug addiction that could target individual genes or brain signaling systems.

They have received a $3.3 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for the project.

"The goal is to take some very new directions for developing medications for alcohol dependence and drug addiction," said R. Adron Harris, the project's principal investigator and director of the university's Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research. "Addiction is one of the most prevalent health problems in the country, and there are very few medications for treating it."
University of Texas at Austin: Exposure to Environmental Contaminants Today Can Influence Behavior Generations Later
May 22, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas — Exposure to chemicals has the ability to influence behavior of offspring several generations after the initial exposure, according to a new study published by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University.

The findings, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put a new twist on the notions of nature and nurture, with broad implications for how certain behavioral tendencies, including responses to stress, might be inherited.

The researchers — David Crews at The University of Texas at Austin, Michael Skinner at Washington State and colleagues — exposed gestating female rats to vinclozolin, a popular fruit and vegetable fungicide. The fungicide does not directly alter DNA but does causes changes in elements that regulate genes. This “epigenetic change” can be passed down to subsequent generations.

The researchers put the rats’ third generation of offspring through a variety of behavioral tests and found they were more anxious, more sensitive to stress, and had greater activity in stress-related regions of the brain than descendants of unexposed rats.
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio: Behavioral support from peers, staff lowers patients’ blood pressure
SAN ANTONIO (May 21, 2012) — Behavioral support from peers and primary care office staff can help patients improve their blood pressure control by as much as starting a new drug, a new study found. Barbara J. Turner, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.A., M.A.C.P., of UT Medicine San Antonio, is the senior author.

The randomized, controlled trial examined whether six months of intervention — behavioral support from peers and primary care office staff — could benefit African-American patients who had poor control of systolic pressure despite one to two years of prescriptions and office visits. Systolic pressure is the force of the blood against vessels as the heart contracts.

“These patients had previously failed to have their blood pressure controlled despite physicians continuing to intensity their medications, so we decided that adding more medicine just wasn’t going to work,” Dr. Turner said. “You start to think, what other things could I do for this person rather than just pills?”
Texas A&M University: Automation in medical records could save lives
By Kristin MacKenzie '13 • May 22nd, 2012 • Category: Research Notes
Medical errors account for 98,000 deaths each year in the U.S., according to a 1999 report published by The Institute of Medicine (IOM). In a more recent report, the IOM claims medical errors harm 1.5 million people and cost $3.5 billion every year. Interestingly, the report claims that medical errors are not due to incompetent people, but to bad systems that include the processes and methods used to carry out various functions.

These staggering numbers and facts have caught the attention of many researchers, including Ram Janakiraman, assistant professor of marketing at Mays Business School, Shelley and Joe Tortorice ’70 Faculty Research Fellow and Mays Teaching Fellow.
I'll be covering both Texas and Calfornia for tonight's OND. Looks like I should get started early.


University of Wisconsin: Sleep Apnea Associated with Higher Mortality from Cancer
May 21, 2012
Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco - Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), commonly known as sleep apnea, is associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality, according to a new study.

While previous studies have associated SDB with increased risks of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and early death, this is the first human study to link apnea with higher rate of cancer mortality.

Lead author Dr. F. Javier Nieto, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says the study showed a nearly five times higher incidence of cancer deaths in patients with severe SDB compared to those without the disorder, a result that echoes previous findings in animal studies.
University of Wisconsin: Educational games to train middle schoolers’ attention, empathy
by Jill Sakai
May 21, 2012
Two years ago, at a meeting on science and education, Richard Davidson challenged video game manufacturers to develop games that emphasize kindness and compassion instead of violence and aggression.

With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor is now answering his own call. With Kurt Squire, an associate professor in the School of Education and director of the Games Learning Society Initiative, Davidson received a $1.39 million grant this spring to design and rigorously test two educational games to help eighth graders develop beneficial social and emotional skills — empathy, cooperation, mental focus, and self-regulation.

"By the time they reach the eighth grade, virtually every middle-class child in the Western world is playing smartphone apps, video games, computer games," says Davidson, the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UW-Madison. "Our hope is that we can use some of that time for constructive purposes and take advantage of the natural inclination of children of that age to want to spend time with this kind of technology."
Here's to hoping this is the start of another series.

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