Saturday, October 5, 2013

Health news from campuses on the campaign trail

While I've featured the shutdown three times this week, I haven't mentioned the nominal reason for it, the Affordable Care Act, taking effect once in the same time.  To mark this auspicious occasion, follow over the jump for the health news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report released).  All of them are from research universities in jurisdictions holding elections this fall.

University of Alabama, Birmingham: Cell powerhouses shape risk of heart disease
By Greg Williams
September 26, 2013
Genes in mitochondria, the “powerhouses” that turn sugar into energy in human cells, shape each person’s risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to a study published recently by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Biochemical Journal. The findings may further explain why some people get sick and others do not despite their having the same traditional risk factors like aging, obesity and smoking. 

Researchers have long sought to determine disease risk by looking at diet and variations in nuclear genes, leaving out differences in mitochondrial genes, the second kind of DNA in every cell.

Research in recent years revealed that miscues in mitochondrial energy production create too many particles called oxidants and free radicals that cause cells to self-destruct as part of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Auburn University: Pathobiologists at Auburn University receive $470,000 grant to study mitochondrial disease
September 27, 2013
Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine faculty has received a two-year, $470,000 grant to conduct research to study neuropathology associated with mitochondrial disease.
Mitochondrial disease is a rare and often misdiagnosed disorder. Mitochondria are the cell’s power producers. They convert energy into forms that are usable by the cell and are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell, which causes injury or even death of the affected cells. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to break down, and the life of the afflicted person is severely compromised. Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems.

Depending on which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastrointestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, vision/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection.

Recent findings by the Auburn team illustrated the effects of a novel group of hybrid antioxidant compounds in animal models of aging, Parkinson’s disease and mitochondrial dysfunction.
University of Alabama: UA Social Work Student Attends White House Roundtable
September 25, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sarah Young, a doctoral student from The University of Alabama School of Social Work, was invited to the White House for a roundtable discussion about issues facing the bisexual community at an event coinciding with international Bisexual Visibility Day, Sept. 23.

This is the second time Young, a McGraw, N.Y. native, has visited the White House. Last year, she attended a dinner with Vice President Joe Biden honoring the nation’s emerging LGBT leaders.

This is a first-time White House roundtable discussion about issues facing the bisexual community.  According to the White House Office of Public Engagement, “participants and administration officials discussed a range of topics including health, HIV/AIDS, domestic and intimate partner violence, mental health and bullying.”
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Environmental Health Scientists Cry Foul Over Journal Editors' Views on Regulating Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals
September 18, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Two environmental health scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, both experts in endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC), have joined an international scientific outcry this week over a recent editorial in which prominent toxicology journal editors attempt to influence European Union (EU) policy on EDC regulation using what their critics say is “inaccurate and factually incorrect” information.

In a commentary published simultaneously today in Endocrinology and five other journals, researchers Laura Vandenberg and Thomas Zoeller of UMass Amherst join dozens of their colleagues around the world to express concerns about an editorial titled, “Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission’s recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science and risk assessment principles.” It appears in an early online edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

In “Policy Decisions on Endocrine Disruptors Should be Based on Science Across Disciplines: A Response to Dietrich et al.,” Vandenberg and the other critics discuss in detail what they call the factual shortcomings of the editorial by Daniel Dietrich, editor of Chemico Biological Interactions, and 17 other editors. They say that the Dietrich editorial “argues for the status quo in the regulation of EDCs, despite the large volume of evidence indicating that current regulations are ineffective in protecting human populations from these chemicals.”

They conclude, “Policymakers in Europe and elsewhere should base their decisions upon science, not assumptions based upon principles that arose out of research on chemicals that are not EDCs.”
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Sleep Research Study Finds Daytime Naps Enhance Learning in Preschool Children
September 23, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst today offer the first research results showing that classroom naps support learning in preschool children by enhancing memory. Children who napped performed significantly better on a visual-spatial task in the afternoon after a nap and the next day than those who did not nap.

Research psychologist Rebecca Spencer, with students Kasey Duclos and Laura Kurdziel, say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning, based on their study of more than 40 preschool children. “Essentially we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children,” Spencer says. “Our study shows that naps help the kids better remember what they are learning in preschool.” Results appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

With an increase in publicly funded preschools, parents and administrators have questioned the usefulness of naps. “There is increased public funding for preschools and increased enrollments in preschools due to a surge of research showing the long-term health and educational benefits of early education. But there was no research on napping so they were a target for elimination in order to make more time for more learning. We offer scientific evidence that the midday naps for preschoolers support the academic goals of early education.”
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston Researcher Finds Teen Obesity Rate Leveling Off
Anna Pinkert
September 18, 2013
Scientists studying the huge increase in childhood obesity finally have some good news to report. Ronald Iannotti, chair of UMass Boston’s Exercise and Health Sciences Department, is the principal investigator of a new study that shows U.S. teens are eating more vegetables and fruit, exercising more, and watching less TV.

The study appears in the current issue of Pediatrics. Between 2001 and 2009, the research team surveyed more than 9,000 students between the ages of 11 and 16 about their behaviors and their body mass index (BMI). The results show that teens are making healthier eating choices and choosing exercise over sedentary activity.

The teens’ BMI did not increase significantly in the last four years of the survey, which indicates a possible “leveling off” of obesity among young people.
Boston University: Alarm Bells over E-Cigarettes
SPH’s Seigel says concerns premature, overblown
September 27, 2013
The headlines were startling: “E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students Skyrockets, CDC Data Show,” from the Washington Post. And this from U.S. News & World Report: “Democratic Senators Pounce on E-Cigarettes After CDC Study Shows Teen Use Spike.”

E-cigarettes, for those who don’t know, are battery-powered devices that look like cigarettes, but don’t burn tobacco. Rather, they deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals in the form of a vapor. The recent media storm was prompted by a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found the percentage of high school students who said they had used one jumped from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. Use also doubled among middle school students, according to the CDC. The report raised anew concerns about the long-term effects of these tobacco products. On Tuesday, 40 state attorneys general sent a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.

Meanwhile, around the same time as the CDC report, a small study of smokers published in the journal Lancet added to growing research suggesting that electronic cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking.

What to make of the conflicting reports? According to Michael Siegel, a School of Public Health professor of community health sciences, the negative effects of electronic cigarettes have been wildly overblown, clouding the important benefits of e-cigarettes as devices to help people quit smoking.
WBUR: The ‘Truman Show’ Delusion: When Patients Think They’re On TV
Friday, September 27, 2013
Delusions, paranoia and hearing voices have long been signs of mental illness. But psychiatrists are reporting a new variation.

While patients in years past may have feared the CIA, some patients now believe they’re being watched and tracked, reality show-style.

It’s being called the “Truman Show” delusion or T.S.D., after the movie in which Jim Carrey plays a man who unknowingly stars in a reality TV show.
University of Virginia: Study: Moms Who Share a Bed With Baby Breastfeed Longer, But There Are Risks
September 26, 2013
Mothers who “bedshare” – sleep in the same bed with their infants – tend to breastfeed longer, new research suggests. The findings explore and quantify the relationship between breastfeeding and bedsharing, a much-debated practice associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death.

“Many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend not to bedshare, because bedsharing can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and suffocation deaths,” said researcher and family physician Dr. Fern R. Hauck of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “On the other hand, breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, and this research has suggested that there is a positive association between bedsharing and longer breastfeeding. So you’ve got this tension for women who want to bedshare because they feel it helps them to breastfeed more easily, to keep an eye on their baby and to bond. All these are reasons people have for bedsharing.”

Even some physicians, Hauck noted, are conflicted on what to advise. So the researchers set out to find hard facts that would shed light on the debate.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Research Finds New Exercise Benefit
September 26, 2013
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have identified an important new benefit of exercise: It increases the ability of skeletal muscle cells to remove damaged components and other cellular debris.

The discovery should prove important in the battle against the effects of aging and diseases such as diabetes – and could help explain why some people see little benefit from exercise.

That cellular cleaning process, known as autophagy, appears vital for the muscle to adapt to exercise – and for the body to reap the health benefits of exercise.
Virginia Tech: Researchers develop model to study immune response to infections that cause peptic ulcers
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 24, 2013 – Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have developed a new large animal model to how the immune system interacts with the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease.

The discovery in the October edition of the journal Infection and Immunity may inform changes in the ways doctors treat patients. An estimated 4 million Americans have sores in the stomach lining known as peptic ulcers, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

Although the bacterium is found in more than half the world’s population, most people do not develop diseases. However, some experience chronic inflammation of the stomach, or gastritis, which can lead to the development of ulcers or cancer.

In addition to its role as a pathogen, the bacteria have beneficial effects, preventing certain chronic inflammatory and metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Virginia Commonwealth University: New technology may boost bone growth response for spinal fusion
Roughened titanium alloy surface provides enhanced environment for bone formation, implant stability and fusion
By Sathya Achia Abraham
Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013
A spinal interbody fusion implant with a roughened titanium alloy surface provides an enhanced environment for bone formation, implant stability and fusion compared to one with a smooth titanium alloy surface, according to a new preclinical study led by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering.

Spinal fusion may be a necessary surgery for patients with broken vertebrae, deformities of the spine, certain spinal disorders, herniated disks or chronic low back pain to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine to eliminate motion between them.

In order for spinal fusion to occur, an environment conducive to supporting bone formation and remodeling must be created. This is done through the use of spinal interbody fusion implants with specialized surfaces that are used to promote growth of bone and formation of blood vessels to provide nutrients and sustained bone health. Past research has focused mainly on bone growth factors and has overlooked blood vessel factors.
As the cashiers say at my local Walgreen, be healthy!

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