Saturday, November 9, 2013

Health news for the week of election day

It's time for the next installment of health news from campuses on the campaign trail.  I'll begin with a health issue that will become a political one, mandating that all employees be eligible for paid sick leave.  Rutgers University has the latest polling in Rutgers Study: Overwhelming Majority of New Jerseyans Support Paid Sick Days
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As New Jersey’s policymakers consider establishing a minimum standard for paid sick days, the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey has released an issue brief on the subject that finds an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of state residents of all political affiliations support paid sick day policies.

While there is a great deal of public support, results reported in, It’s Catching: Public Opinion toward Paid Sick Days in New Jersey, document a persistent need: 37 percent of state residents currently lack access to paid sick days, particularly Hispanic and Latino workers, younger workers and those who work part time or earn less than $50,000 per year.  

“Over 37 percent of New Jersey residents work in jobs with no paid sick days,” said Linda Houser, CWW affiliate fellow, assistant professor at Widener University and co-author of the report. “This proportion is significantly higher for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens – low-income earners, part-time workers and young adults. Additionally, over 50 percent of these workers cited concerns about financial affordability, job loss or bad performance reviews as having an impact on their decision about taking time off from work to recover from illness.”
In related news, the ballot measure to raise the minimum wage in News Jersey I mentioned in Election eve news from campuses on the campaign trail passed.  That's good news, but it's not for everybody, so no Professor Farnsworth.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the health-related news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Eclipse, Sandy Anniversary, and Fall Back) on Daily Kos.

Rutgers University: Young Mother's Death Inspires Family to Improve Maternal Health Care
Rutgers co-sponsors one of the country's first conferences to lower postpartum mortality rates in nation
By Lisa Intrabartola
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The delivery of Tara Hansen’s first son, Brandon Ryan, was expected to be textbook.

After all, she was a healthy, 29-year-old who didn’t suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure or any other condition commonly associated with postpartum complications.

There were no red flags to cause her medical team concern: Except the one Tara was waving.
Rutgers University: Rare Childhood Disease May Hold Clues to Treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
Rutgers scientists investigate excess protein production in brain cells
By Robin Lally
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Scientists at Rutgers University studying the cause of a rare childhood disease that leaves children unable to walk by adolescence say new findings may provide clues to understanding more common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and developing better tools to treat them.

In today’s online edition of Nature Neuroscience, professors Karl Herrup, Ronald Hart and Jiali Li in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, and Alexander Kusnecov, associate professor in behavioral and systems neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, provide new information about A-T disease, a rare genetic childhood disorder that occurs in an estimated 1 in 40,000 births.

Children born with A-T disease have mutations in both of their copies of the ATM gene and cannot make normal ATM protein. This leads to problems in movement, coordination, equilibrium and muscle control as well as a number of other deficiencies outside the nervous system.
Rutgers University: Drowsy Driving an Increasing Hazard Say Rutgers Medical Experts
Sleep deprivation and darkness can cause drivers to doze when they believe they are alert
By Patti Verbanas
Monday, October 28, 2013
Many of us make light of that relatively short drive home. But getting behind the wheel when you’re sleepy can cost lives and lead to imprisonment and a hefty fine.

Drowsy drivers number in the millions. In a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of adults said they had driven at least once while drowsy, and 37 percent admitted to have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. AAA reports that one in six fatal traffic accidents results from drowsy driving.

Sergio Bichao nearly added to those fatalities.
Rutgers University: Autism and Language Impairment Genetically Linked
Rutgers scientists also find strong evidence of a genetic connection in areas of social skills and repetitive behaviors
By Robin Lally
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Lorenzo Miodus-Santini, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Princeton, who was classified as autistic at only 13 months old, was never a big talker. As an infant he didn’t babble or coo. When he was a toddler beginning to speak, he would learn one word but forget another.

His older brother, Christian, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, shared some similar characteristics – difficulty with reading, processing words and speaking clearly. Doctors said he had language impairments but was not autistic.

New research published online today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, by scientists at Rutgers University and The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, reveals that there is a genetic link connecting family members with autism like Lorenzo Miodus-Santini to those like his brother, Christian, who have specific language impairment characterized by speech and language difficulties that can’t be explained by cognitive or physical problems.
Rutgers University: Training the Doctor's Eye Through the Study of Art
The new Rutgers paves the way for an innovative interdisciplinary humanities course designed to graduate better doctors
By Patti Verbanas
Sunday, October 27, 2013
At a time when physicians rely increasingly on new technologies as diagnostic tools, Gloria Bachmann is one of the growing number of Rutgers faculty who want these doctors to see their patients as “complete” people – not as a series of symptoms or injured body parts.

“We need to address the educational foundation of health care providers by making them rethink how they view the human body,” says Bachmann, interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Bachmann is one of the leaders of an innovative working group – which also includes a Rutgers art history professor who began her academic career as a premed student  – that is developing a humanities elective for medical students.

The inaugural course – combining art history and narrative writing – will be offered for the first time to Robert Wood Johnson medical students this spring. The ultimate goal: Prepare better doctors by making them more observant diagnosticians and more effective communicators.
Boston University: Higher-Level TB Research to Begin at NEIDL
Boston Public Health Commission gives go-ahead
By Rich Barlow
BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories will begin doing tuberculosis research at a higher biosafety level in the coming months, following approval of the work by the Boston Public Health Commission. The research will be transferred from another lab on the Medical Campus.

TB researchers Igor Kramnik, a School of Medicine professor of medicine and director of NEIDL’s Aerobiology Core, and James Galagan, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering and NEIDL associate director of systems biology, have also received approval from BU’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (ISB) to begin preparing for Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research at NEIDL. BSL-3 research at the lab was green-lighted by a federal court in September.

Kramnik says his research probes the “mechanisms of host susceptibility to tuberculosis, to determine how to prevent destructive lung inflammation caused by the pathogen.” He and his colleagues have managed to stem the disease’s lung lesions in mice, and they are now trying to figure out how to activate such protection in humans and prevent TB transmission by coughing.
Rutgers University: Zebrafish Shown to be Useful Tool in Prostate Cancer Stem Cell Research
Monday, October 28, 2013
Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey demonstrates that using zebrafish to identify self-renewing tumor stem cells in prostate cancers may be more beneficial than using traditional experimental models when aiming to predict response to therapy.

Prostate cancers are suggested to contain self-renewing tumor stem cells that have the ability to grow uncontrollably and spread.  Identified as tumor-initiating cells (TICs), research has shown that these cells are found to be resistant to standard chemotherapy. A desirable treatment strategy is to develop therapies that would effectively target the self-renewing capabilities of the TICs, which requires better identification of TICs themselves.    Utilizing prostate cancer samples from patients diagnosed at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey between 2008 and 2012, Cancer Institute investigators used mouse and zebrafish models to identify the frequencies of TICs from each patient’s prostate cancer cells.   The research appears in the latest edition of The Prostate (DOI 10.1002/pros.22740).
University of Massachusetts: Biochemists Find Incomplete Protein Digestion is a Useful Thing for Some Bacteria
October 30, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Usually indigestion is a bad thing, but experiments by researcher Peter Chien and graduate student Robert Vass at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently showed that for the bacteria Caulobacter crescentus, partial degradation of a DNA replication protein is required to keep it alive.

DNA replication is one of the most highly controlled biological processes in all organisms, says Chien, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass Amherst. From humans all the way back to bacteria, all cells must faithfully duplicate their genomes in order to survive. To coordinate the start, ensure the completion and repair damages during DNA replication, specialized proteins play a key role by regulating processes.

Protein degradation by energy-dependent proteases normally results in the complete destruction of target proteins, Chien notes. However, under particularly harsh artificial conditions in the test tube, these proteases can stall on certain targets. But until the recent UMass Amherst experiments, such an effect had never been seen inside a living bacterial cell, he adds.
University of Massachusetts: Reproductive Biologists, with International Team, Move in vitro Fertilization Knowledge Forward
October 29, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Two new papers from reproductive biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with international partners, report advances in understanding the basic processes of sperm capacitation that may one day improve success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) by providing a shortcut to bypass problems, and may eventually lead to a male contraceptive.

A “pill for men” may be a long way down the road, says Pablo Visconti, lead UMass Amherst author, but this new fundamental knowledge of how sperm acquire the ability to fertilize an egg, allowing scientists to either block or enhance the process, is at the heart of controlling it. Findings appear in early online editions this month of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), which named one study its “Paper of the Week.”

As Visconti recalls, it was the discovery in the 1950s of sperm capacitation that made IVF possible. Sperm are not fertile until they spend time in the specialized environment of the female reproductive tract, moving through a series of biochemically delicate stages known as capacitation. In the past 50 years it has become clear not only that this signal transduction cascade for capacitation involves many stages, but that each mammalian species has its own different and specific requirements for success.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Medical Researchers, Colleagues Find Unexpected Genetic Mosaic in the Brain
November 1, 2013
Scientists at the University of Virginia and elsewhere have discovered that nerve cells in the brain are unexpectedly varied in their genetic makeup, a surprising finding that may help explain schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism and other such conditions thought to be genetically linked but not yet tied to a single gene.

Researchers at U.Va.’s School of Medicine and their collaborators found that up to 41 percent of the neurons they examined displayed at least one significant variation in DNA – a percentage far greater than anticipated. This variation could be in the form of either a duplication or a deletion in the genetic code. A deletion could lead to reduced expression of the affected genes, while a duplication could lead to greater expression.

“That might be why it’s been so hard to figure out the genetics of these complex diseases – because we’ve been building on the assumption that all the cells in there had the same genome,” said Mike McConnell of U,Va.’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. “If we’ve been over- or under-representing some of the risk genes, now we might have a better understanding.”

The work represents an important application of single-cell sequencing, allowing scientists to examine the genetic makeup of an individual cell. McConnell said this was, to his knowledge, the first time the approach had been applied to neurons.
Virginia Tech: Veterinary researcher focuses on swine disease with U.S. Department of Agriculture postdoctoral fellowship
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 1, 2013 – A researcher in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine seeks to better understand the cause of a global swine disease that has caused significant economic losses since its first discovery in the late 1990s.

Shannon Matzinger, postdoctoral associate in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a two-year, $150,000 postdoctoral fellowship grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) depletes the lymphatic system and causes inflammation in pigs.

“Although this is arguably one of the most economically important pig viruses, we still do not fully understand the mechanism for how it causes disease,” Matzinger said. “If we can identify the underlying mechanism that causes the disease, we can design better control and prevention strategies against the virus.”
And that's it for all the health news from campuses on the campaign trail since Health news for the week of Halloween.  Look for one more installment next week.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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