Protein Folding (http://helpfromthedoctor.com/blog/2010/07/27/what-is-a-protein/)
A team led by a longtime Oregon Health & Science University researcher has demonstrated in mice what could be a revolutionary new technique to cure a wide range of human diseases — from cystic fibrosis to cataracts to Alzheimer’s disease — that are caused by “misfolded” protein molecules
Misfolded protein molecules, caused by gene mutation, are capable of maintaining their function but are misrouted within the cell and can’t work normally, thus causing disease. The OHSU team discovered a way to use small molecules that enter cells, fix the misfolded proteins and allow the proteins to move to the correct place and function normally again.
The researchers were led by P. Michael Conn, Ph.D., who was a senior scientist in reproductive sciences and neuroscience at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center and professor of physiology and pharmacology, cell biology and development and obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU for the past 19 years. This month, Conn joined Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as senior vice president for research and associate provost.
The team’s work will be published this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was the culmination of 13 years of work on the process by Conn and Jo Ann Janovick, former senior research associate at the ONPRC who is now also at TTUHSC. Richard R. Behringer, Ph.D., from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, M. David Stewart, Ph.D., from the University of Houston, and Douglas Stocco, Ph.D., and Pulak Manna, Ph.D., from the department of biochemistry/microbiology at TTUHSC, also contributed to the work.
Conn and his team perfected the process in mice, curing them of a form of disease that causes males to be unable to father offspring. The identical disease occurs in humans and Conn believes the same concept can work to cure human disease as well.
“The opportunity here is going to be enormous,” said Conn, “because so many human diseases are caused by misfolded proteins. The ability of these drugs — called ‘pharmacoperones’ — to rescue misfolded proteins and return them to normalcy could someday be an underlying cure to a number of diseases. Drugs that act by regulating the trafficking of molecules within cells are a whole new way of thinking about treating disease.”
A wide range of diseases are caused by an accumulation of misfolded proteins. Among the diseases are neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Other diseases include certain types of diabetes, inherited cataracts and cystic fibrosis.
Conn said the next steps will be clinical trials to see whether the same technique can work in humans.
- OHSU researchers develop new drug approach that could lead to cures for wide range of diseases (eurekalert.org)
- Drugs to fix “misfolded” proteins could cure a range of diseases (gizmag.com)
- Misfolded proteins are capable of forming tree-like aggregates in Alzheimer’s disease (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Inhibiting IGF1 Signaling Reduces Misfolded Protein Aggregation in Aging (fightaging.org)
- Bad proteins branch out (news.rice.edu)
- Could arthritis drug combat Alzheimer’s? (theguardian.com)
- Session 10A Protein processing and degradation (reccob.wordpress.com)
- New survival mechanism found for stressed mitochondria (medicalnewstoday.com)
- New startup looking to cure genetic diseases by editing genes in new way (medicalxpress.com)
- Dementia: Five priorities for research (bbc.co.uk)
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- Journalists Doubt Obama Administration’s Dedication to Transparency (pogoblog.typepad.com)
- Charles Ornstein: Six Questions About HealthCare.gov’s Future (guernicamag.com)
- There Once was a Responsible Journalist (find links at the bottom) (scottbest.wordpress.com)
- Donor Dilemma receives national recognition (andrewcconte.wordpress.com)
On a personal note. Back in 1972 the religion classes for juniors and seniors at my high school were composed of electives. I took the marriage class. One week was spent on contraceptives. The material on the different types was fact based. Since it was a Catholic school abstinence was emphasized! Still, I was a bit taken aback that we were given all the facts in order to make our own decisions. Didn’t tell my parents about this! But the week’s focus on contraception did reinforce what we were taught at home – responsibilities for our actions.
On a somewhat related note – my heart goes out to all who are sexually abused and feel that a sexual relationship (and/or a relationship that is disproportionally based on the needs of others) is the only way out of a bad (often home) environment.
Qualitative Study Explores Women’s Perceptions of Pregnancy Risk
In-depth interviews with 49 women obtaining abortions in the United States found that most of the study participants perceived themselves to be at low risk of becoming pregnant at the time that it happened. According to “Perceptions of Susceptibility to Pregnancy Among U.S. Women Obtaining Abortions,” by Lori Frohwirth of the Guttmacher Institute et al., the most common reasons women gave for thinking they were at low risk of pregnancy included a perception of invulnerability, a belief that they were infertile, self-described inattention to the possibility of pregnancy and a belief that they were protected by their (often incorrect) use of a contraceptive method. Most participants gave more than one response.
The most common reason women gave for their perceived low risk of pregnancy was perceived invulnerability to pregnancy. Study participants understood that pregnancy could happen, but for reasons they couldn’t explain, thought they were immune or safe from pregnancy at the time they engaged in unprotected sex. One reported that she “always had good luck,” while another said, “…It’s like you believe something so much, like ‘I just really don’t want children,’ [and] for some reason, I thought that would prevent me from getting pregnant.” This type of magical thinking—that pregnancy somehow would not happen despite acknowledged exposure—suggests a disconnect between the actual risk of pregnancy incurred by an average couple who does not use contraceptives (85% risk of pregnancy over the course of a year) and a woman’s efforts to protect herself from unintended pregnancy.
Equal proportions (one-third) of respondents thought they or their partners were sterile, said the possibility of pregnancy “never crossed my mind” and reported that (often incorrect) contraceptive use was the reason they thought they were at low risk. Perceptions of infertility were not based on medical advice, but rather on past experiences (e.g., the respondent had unprotected sex and didn’t get pregnant) or family history. Among those who thought they were protected by their contraceptive method, most women reported inconsistent or incorrect method use. For example, one woman felt a few missed pills did not put her at risk: “I just thought…they were like magic. If I missed it one day, it wouldn’t really matter.”
The authors suggest that further research is needed to quantify the proportion of women at risk of pregnancy who believe they are not at risk, and reasons why they hold that belief, in order to better address misconceptions around pregnancy risk with the goal of preventing unintended pregnancy. Additionally, they suggest that health care providers should seek to better understand patients’ beliefs regarding their ability to get pregnant and the efficacy of contraception so as to address these topics, and that public health campaigns should dispel myths, address magical thinking, and call attention to the general problem of low health literacy.
“Perceptions of Susceptibility to Pregnancy Among U.S. Women Obtaining Abortions” is currently available online and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Social Science & Medicine.
- Statistics on Abortion from Abort73.com (whyyoushouldbeprochoice.wordpress.com)
- Why young women are going off the pill and on to contraception voodoo | Hadley Freeman (theguardian.com)
- [Brookings Institute report] Isabel V. Sawhill and Quentin Karpilow – Three Facts about Birth Control and Social Mobility (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
- A Major Cause of Unplanned Pregnancies (vitalisticvixen.com)
- Pope Francis sends out survey to ask Catholics about gay sex, abortion and contraception (independent.co.uk)
- Theory post about Abortion (violetlightning.wordpress.com)
Non-Specialist Health Workers Play Important Role in Improving Mental Health in Developing Countries
Non-specialist health workers are beneficial in providing treatment for people with mental, neurological and substance-abuse (MNS) problems in developing countries — where there is often a lack of mental health professionals — according to a new Cochrane review.
Researchers, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, say non-specialist health workers (such as doctors, nurses or lay health workers) not formally trained in mental health or neurology, and other professionals with health roles, such as teachers, may have an important role to play in delivering MNS health care. The study is the first systematic review of non-specialist health workers providing MNS care in low- and middle-income countries.
After examining 38 relevant studies from 22 developing countries, researchers found that non-specialist health workers were able to alleviate some depression or anxiety. For patients with dementia, non-specialists seemed to help in reducing symptoms and in improving their carers’ coping skills. Non-specialists may also have benefits in treating maternal depression, post traumatic stress disorder as well as alcohol abuse, though the improvements may be smaller.
Lead author Dr Nadja van Ginneken, who completed the research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Global Mental Health with funding from the Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD programme, said: “Many low- and middle-income countries have started to train primary care staff, and in particular lay and other community-based health workers, to deliver mental health care. This review shows that, for some mental health problems, the use of non-specialist health workers has some benefits compared to usual care.”
Cochrane Abstract is here
Check with a local academic, health/medical, or public library for free or low cost access to full text.
Professor of Genetics Scott Williams, PhD, of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (iQBS) at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has made two novel discoveries: first, a person can have several DNA mutations in parts of their body, with their original DNA in the rest — resulting in several different genotypes in one individual — and second, some of the same genetic mutations occur in unrelated people. We think of each person’s DNA as unique, so if an individual can have more than one genotype, this may alter our very concept of what it means to be a human, and impact how we think about using forensic or criminal DNA analysis, paternity testing, prenatal testing, or genetic screening for breast cancer risk, for example. Williams’ surprising results indicate that genetic mutations do not always happen purely at random, as scientists have previously thought.
His work, done in collaboration with Professor of Genetics Jason Moore, PhD, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University, was published in PLOS Genetics journal on November 7, 2013.
Genetic mutations can occur in the cells that are passed on from parent to child and may cause birth defects. Other genetic mutations occur after an egg is fertilized, throughout childhood or adult life, after people are exposed to sunlight, radiation, carcinogenic chemicals, viruses, or other items that can damage DNA. These later or “somatic” mutations do not affect sperm or egg cells, so they are not inherited from parents or passed down to children. Somatic mutations can cause cancer or other diseases, but do not always do so. However, if the mutated cell continues to divide, the person can develop tissue, or a part thereof, with a different DNA sequence from the rest of his or her body.
f our human DNA changes, or mutates, in patterns, rather than randomly; if such mutations “match” among unrelated people; or if genetic changes happen only in part of the body of one individual, what does this mean for our understanding of what it means to be human? How may it impact our medical care, cancer screening, or treatment of disease? We don’t yet know, but ongoing research may help reveal the answers.
Christopher Amos, PhD, Director of the Center for Genomic Medicine and Associate Director for Population Sciences at the Cancer Center, says, “This paper identifies mutations that develop in multiple tissues, and provides novel insights that are relevant to aging. Mutations are noticed in several tissues in common across individuals, and the aging process is the most likely contributor. The theory would be that selected mutations confer a selective advantage to mitochondria, and these accumulate as we age.” Amos, who is also a Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Geisel, says, “To confirm whether aging is to blame, we would need to study tissues from multiple individuals at different ages.” Williams concurs, saying, “Clearly these do accumulate with age, but how and why is unknown — and needs to be determined.”
Just as our bodies’ immune systems have evolved to fight disease, interestingly, they can also stave off the effects of some genetic mutations. Williams states that, “Most genetic changes don’t cause disease, and if they did, we’d be in big trouble. Fortunately, it appears our systems filter a lot of that out.”
Mark Israel, MD, Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at Geisel, says, “The fact that somatic mutation occurs in mitochondrial DNA apparently non-randomly provides a new working hypothesis for the rest of the genome. If this non-randomness is general, it may affect cancer risks in ways we could not have previously predicted. This can have real impact in understanding and changing disease susceptibility.”
- Study finds novel genetic patterns that make us rethink biology and individuality (medicalxpress.com)
- Novel genetic patterns may make us rethink biology and individuality (scooprocket.com)
- A patchwork of genetic variation found in the brain: Surprising degree of variation among genomes of individual neurons from same brain (sciencedaily.com)
- New Technique to Determine Whether DNA is from Mom or Dad (medindia.net)
PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:5-Nov-2013
Ethical research with minorities
Johns Hopkins bioethicist Nancy Kass is a guest editor of the AJPH special issue taking a comprehensive look at the current ethical landscape of human subjects research with minority populations
Remarkable improvements in the quality of life, prevention and treatment of disease have been made possible through advancements in biomedical research, including clinical trials involving human subjects. Future progress will depend in large measure on the inclusion of women and racial and ethnic minority populations into the research enterprise. Unfortunately, research abuses in the past have contributed to fear and mistrust among these populations resulting in regulatory measures designed to protect them due to their real or perceived “vulnerability.”
Increasingly groups seen as vulnerable are demanding access to the benefits of research and investigators are making progress in successful inclusion of women and minorities. This question of vulnerability is just one of many ethically relevant concepts raised in the current theme issue of the American Journal of Public Health, titled “The Ethics of Human Subjects Research on Minorities”.
“While there is growing attention to the participation of minority populations in research, there has been far less attention on the ethical issues raised through research recruitment, enrollment and engagement; our goal was to shine a spotlight on those issues in particular,” says Nancy E. Kass, ScD, one of three guest editors of the issue and the Deputy Director for Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
The theme issue opens with an editorial by Kass and her co-guest editors Sandra C. Quinn, PhD, and Stephen B. Thomas, PhD, of the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. In their editorial, “Building Trust for Engagement of Minorities in Human Subjects Research: Is the Glass Half Full, Half Empty or the Wrong Size?” The editors contextualize the history of human subjects protections for “vulnerable persons,” recognizing that the protections themselves, while critically important and very successful, may also have limited the benefits of research among the populations that were “protected”. They discuss the progress we’ve made, the challenges still to be tackled, and propose a shift in the way researchers approach minority communities.
Other topics explored in the issue include recruitment of minority populations, community engagement, and training of researchers and health professionals in ethics and working with minority populations. Articles in the volume focus on specific populations including Native American and Alaskan Native populations, persons with disabilities, populations at risk of contracting HIV, and racial and ethnic minority populations.
The theme issue is one of the scholarly products made possible by the National Bioethics Research Infrastructure Initiative grant from the NIH-NIMHD, “Building Trust Between Minorities and Researchers ” awarded to the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity. The issue assembles a collection of peer-reviewed papers that explore the complexities involved in the ethical inclusion of minority populations in research and the challenges facing the nation in having a research enterprise that is both protective and inclusive of vulnerable groups. Additionally, contemporary research operates in the long shadow cast by the abuse of human subjects in research, Kass says.
Drs. Quinn, Kass, and Thomas are uniquely suited to guest editing this theme issue. Kass holds a joint appointment in Johns Hopkins’ Berman Institute of Bioethics and Bloomberg School of Public Health as the Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health; she is a globally recognized public health expert and has served on international and national ethics committees, in addition to leading the Johns Hopkins-Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program for the last 13 years.
Quinn has extensive experience investigating the impact of disasters on preparedness of minority communities and the willingness of these groups to accept seasonal flu and other vaccines. Thomas is Professor and Founding Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and a recognized national expert on community engaged research. His work with Quinn on the legacy of the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study done at Tuskegee contributed to the 1997 Presidential Apology to survivors. Together Thomas and Quinn are principal investigators of the Building Trust project at M-CHE.
According to Dr. Thomas, “It is impressive how several of the articles call for the re-imagination of human subjects protections for vulnerable populations and a reengineering of the research enterprise to elevate the ‘community’ to be as important as the ‘individual’ when it comes to improving the informed consent process” he said.
The full theme issue is available online now at http://ajph.aphapublications.org/
The print version will be available December 2013.
Funding for the theme issue was provided the by Award Number 7RC2MD004766 (Quinn & Thomas, Principal Investigators) from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) and the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- PEBS Neuroethics Roundup (JHU) (kolber.typepad.com)
- Minorities Underrepresented in Federal Regulations on Human Subject Research (hofstrabioethics.wordpress.com)
PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:5-Nov-2013
Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain
Tel Aviv University researchers study the long-term effects of torture on the human pain system
Israeli soldiers captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War were subjected to brutal torture in Egypt and Syria. Held alone in tiny, filthy spaces for weeks or months, sometimes handcuffed and blindfolded, they suffered severe beatings, burns, electric shocks, starvation, and worse. And rather than receiving treatment, additional torture was inflicted on existing wounds.
Forty years later, research by Prof. Ruth Defrin of the Department of Physical Therapy in the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University shows that the ex-prisoners of war (POWs), continue to suffer from dysfunctional pain perception and regulation, likely as a result of their torture. The study — conducted in collaboration with Prof. Zahava Solomon and Prof. Karni Ginzburg of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work and Prof. Mario Mikulincer of the School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya — was published in the European Journal of Pain.
“The human body’s pain system can either inhibit or excite pain. It’s two sides of the same coin,” says Prof. Defrin. “Usually, when it does more of one, it does less of the other. But in Israeli ex-POWs, torture appears to have caused dysfunction in both directions. Our findings emphasize that tissue damage can have long-term systemic effects and needs to be treated immediately.”
A painful legacy
The study focused on 104 combat veterans of the Yom Kippur War. Sixty of the men were taken prisoner during the war, and 44 of them were not. In the study, all were put through a battery of psychophysical pain tests — applying a heating device to one arm, submerging the other arm in a hot water bath, and pressing a nylon fiber into a middle finger. They also filled out psychological questionnaires.
The ex-POWs exhibited diminished pain inhibition (the degree to which the body eases one pain in response to another) and heightened pain excitation (the degree to which repeated exposure to the same sensation heightens the resulting pain). Based on these novel findings, the researchers conclude that the torture survivors’ bodies now regulate pain in a dysfunctional way.
It is not entirely clear whether the dysfunction is the result of years of chronic pain or of the original torture itself. But the ex-POWs exhibited worse pain regulation than the non-POW chronic pain sufferers in the study. And a statistical analysis of the test data also suggested that being tortured had a direct effect on their ability to regulate pain.
The researchers say non-physical torture may have also contributed to the ex-POWs’ chronic pain. Among other forms of oppression and humiliation, the ex-POWs were not allowed to use the toilet, cursed at and threatened, told demoralizing misinformation about their loved ones, and exposed to mock executions. In the later stages of captivity, most of the POWs were transferred to a group cell, where social isolation was replaced by intense friction, crowding, and loss of privacy.
“We think psychological torture also affects the physiological pain system,” says Prof. Defrin. “We still have to fully analyze the data, but preliminary analysis suggests there is a connection.”
American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel’s leading, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning, Tel Aviv University (TAU). Rooted in a pan-disciplinary approach to education, TAU is internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship — attracting world-class faculty and consistently producing cutting-edge work with profound implications for the future. TAU is independently ranked 116th among the world’s top universities and #1 in Israel. It joins a handful of elite international universities that rank among the best producers of successful startups.
- Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain (scienceblog.com)
- Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain (sciencedaily.com)
- Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain (medicalxpress.com)
- Chilean Exile Tortured During Pinochet Dictatorship Wins Compensation (eurasiareview.com)
- Former bodyguards allege torture by Kazakh exile Rakhat Aliyev (timesofmalta.com)
- The pain didn’t end (1trueme.wordpress.com)
- How Doctors Became Torturers (shaneomara.wordpress.com)
PITTSBURGH, Nov. 1, 2013 – The red, swollen and painful gums and bone destruction of periodontal disease could be effectively treated by beckoning the right kind of immune system cells to the inflamed tissues, according to a new animal study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Their findings, published this week in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new therapeutic paradigm for a condition that afflicts 78 million people in the U.S. alone.Periodontal disease currently is treated by keeping oral bacteria in check with daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional deep cleaning with scaling and root planing, which remove tartar above and below the gum line. In some hard-to-treat cases, antibiotics are given. These strategies of mechanical tartar removal and antimicrobial delivery aim to reduce the amount of oral bacteria on the tooth surface, explained co-author and co-investigator Charles Sfeir, D.D.S., Ph.D., director, Center for Craniofacial Regeneration and associate professor, Departments of Periodontics and Oral Biology, Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine.“Currently, we try to control the build-up of bacteria so it doesn’t trigger severe inflammation, which could eventually damage the bone and tissue that hold the teeth in place,” Dr. Sfeir said. “But that strategy doesn’t address the real cause of the problem, which is an overreaction of the immune system that causes a needlessly aggressive response to the presence of oral bacteria. There is a real need to design new approaches to treat periodontal disease.”In the healthy mouth, a balance exists between bacteria and the immune system response to forestall infection without generating inflammation, said senior author Steven Little, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. But in many people, a chronic overload of bacteria sets up the immune system to stay on red alert, causing harm to the oral tissues while it attempts to eradicate germs.“There is a lot of evidence now that shows these diseased tissues are deficient in a subset of immune cells called regulatory T-cells, which tells attacking immune cells to stand down, stopping the inflammatory response,” Dr. Little said. “We wanted to see what would happen if we brought these regulatory T-cells back to the gums.”To do so, the researchers developed a system of polymer microspheres to slowly release a chemokine, or signaling protein, called CCL22 that attracts regulatory T-cells, and placed tiny amounts of the paste-like agent between the gums and teeth of animals with periodontal disease. The team found that even though the amount of bacteria was unchanged, the treatment led to improvements of standard measures of periodontal disease, including decreased pocket depth and gum bleeding, reflecting a reduction in inflammation as a result of increased numbers of regulatory T-cells. MicroCT-scanning showed lower rates of bone loss.“Mummified remains from ancient Egypt show evidence of teeth scraping to remove plaque,” Dr. Little noted. “The tools are better and people are better trained now, but we’ve been doing much the same thing for hundreds of years. Now, this homing beacon for Treg cells, combined with professional cleaning, could give us a new way of preventing the serious consequences of periodontal disease by correcting the immune imbalance that underlies the condition.”Next steps include developing the immune modulation strategy for human trials. In addition to Drs. Sfeir and Little, the research team included Ph.D. candidate Andrew J. Glowacki,, Sayuri Yoshizawa, D.D.S., Ph.D., Siddharth Jhunjhunwala, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh; and Andreia E Vieira, Ph.D., and Gustavo P. Garlet, D.D.S., Ph.D., of Sao Paulo University, Brazil.The project was funded by National Institutes of Health Grants 1R01DE021058-01 A1, 1R56DE021058-01, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Treating gum disease by bringing needed immune cells to inflamed tissue (sciencedaily.com)
- Immune Therapy May Offer New Treatment for Periodontal Disease (news.softpedia.com)
- Gum disease treated by bringing needed immune cells to inflamed tissue (medicalxpress.com)
- Healthy Gums May Prevent Heart Disease (counselheal.com)
- Here’s How Caring for Your Teeth and Gums Can Prevent Heart Disease (medindia.net)
- How Oral Hygiene Affects the Rest of You (livescience.com)
- Gingivitis (flawlessdentistrynewton.wordpress.com)
- Some Facts about Periodontal Disease (dentalessence.wordpress.com)
- Brooklyn Orthodontist Links Oral Health to Overall Health (sunsetparkdental.wordpress.com)
[Research article] Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions
Racism is related to policies preferences and behaviors that adversely affect blacks and appear related to a fear of blacks (e.g., increased policing, death penalty). This study examined whether racism is also related to gun ownership and opposition to gun controls in US whites.
The most recent data from the American National Election Study, a large representative US sample, was used to test relationships between racism, gun ownership, and opposition to gun control in US whites. Explanatory variables known to be related to gun ownership and gun control opposition (i.e., age, gender, education, income, conservatism, anti-government sentiment, southern vs. other states, political identification) were entered in logistic regression models, along with measures of racism, and the stereotype of blacks as violent. Outcome variables included; having a gun in the home, opposition to bans on handguns in the home, support for permits to carry concealed handguns.
After accounting for all explanatory variables, logistic regressions found that for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home. After also accounting for having a gun in the home, there was still a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns, for each one point increase in symbolic racism. The relationship between symbolic racism and opposition to banning handguns in the home (OR1.27 CI 1.03,1.58) was reduced to non-significant after accounting for having a gun in the home (OR1.17 CI.94,1.46), which likely represents self-interest in retaining property (guns).
Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in US whites. The findings help explain US whites’ paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control. Such attitudes may adversely influence US gun control policy debates and decisions.
Editor: Brock Bastian, University of Queensland, Australia
Received: May 3, 2013; Accepted: September 7, 2013; Published: October 31, 2013
Copyright: © 2013 O’Brien et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: These authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist
- Study links racism, gun ownership and resistance to gun laws (rawstory.com)
- Racism linked with gun ownership and opposition to gun control in white Americans (esciencenews.com)
- Racism linked with gun ownership and opposition to gun control in white Americans (psypost.org)
- Racism linked with gun ownership and opposition to gun control in white Americans (eurekalert.org)
- In US, racism is linked to gun ownership (futurity.org)
- Racism linked with gun ownership and opposition to gun control in white Americans (medicalnewstoday.com)
UCR psychologist finds that unrealistic pessimists less likely to take preventive action after receiving good news
IMAGE: This is Kate Sweeny.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Patients who are unrealistically optimistic about their personal health risks are more likely to take preventive action when confronted with news that is worse than expected, while unrealistic pessimists are less likely to change their behavior after receiving feedback that is better than expected, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
This poses a serious dilemma for health care professionals, said study authors Kate Sweeny, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, and co-author Amanda Dillard, assistant professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University: Should they withhold accurate risk information from unrealistic pessimists to avoid undermining their perceptions of the severity of their potential consequences and ultimately their motivation for preventive behavior?
“The question reveals a tension between the goals of health-behavior promotion and informed patient decision-making that has plagued researchers in several health domains, most notably with regard to women’s often overly pessimistic perceptions of their breast cancer risk,” Sweeny and Dillard wrote in “The Effects of Expectation Disconfirmation on Appraisal, Affect, and Behavioral Intentions,” published this month in the online edition of Risk Analysis: An International Journal. The journal is an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society based in McLean, Va.
“Our findings cannot resolve this tension, but rather point to the need for further consideration of the potential consequences of risk communication,” the researchers said.
Sweeny and Dillard are the first to demonstrate that how an individual reacts and responds to objective risk feedback may depend on initial expectations prior to the feedback.
The psychologists conducted a series of experiments in which participants were told they would be tested for exposure to toxins found in everyday products. The researchers found that people who received risk feedback that was worse than expected expressed stronger intentions to prevent the threat in the future than did people who received risk feedback that was better than expected. All study participants received the same health feedback; only the expectations of the participants differed.
“Our findings add critical pieces to the previously incomplete picture of the consequences of expectation disconfirmation,” they wrote. “Ours is the first experimental investigation of the relationship between expectation disconfirmation and behavioral intentions in the context of personal risk perceptions, and the first study to examine the process by which intentions might rise or fall in response to unexpected risk feedback.”
Contrary to findings in other recent studies, Sweeny and Dillard determined that when people are faced with objective feedback that differs from their perceptions of health risks, they may adapt their behavior to fit the new risk information.
“In our studies, participants who learned that their risk was higher than they expected … formed relative strong intentions to take preventive action,” they said. They also found that people who learned that their risk was lower than expected felt relatively good in the face of feedback and formed relatively weak intentions to take preventive action. All of the study participants received the same health risk feedback.
“Our findings point to an important tradeoff people face when managing their expectations as they await feedback: maintaining optimism leaves people open to disappointment, but bracing for the worst may undermine future motivation to improve,” they said. “… It seems that people find the emotional consequences of being caught off-guard more compelling than the potential for elation to undermine their motivation to change their behavior in response to feedback.”
- Good, bad news influences health decisions (universityofcalifornia.edu)
- Aging May Not Dull Decision-Making Skills, Study Finds (nlm.nih.gov)
Study finds almost 1 in 3 large clinical trials still not published 5 years after completion
Almost one in three (29%) large clinical trials remain unpublished five years after completion. And of these, 78% have no results publicly available, finds a study published on bmj.com today.
This means that an estimated 250,000 people have been exposed to the risks of trial participation without the societal benefits that accompany the dissemination of their results, say the authors.
They argue that this “violates an ethical obligation that investigators have towards study participants” and call for additional safeguards “to ensure timely public dissemination of trial data.”
Randomized clinical trials are a critical means of advancing medical knowledge. They depend on the willingness of people to expose themselves to risks, but the ethical justification for these risks is that society will eventually benefit from the knowledge gained from the trial.
But when trial data remain unpublished, the societal benefit that may have motivated someone to enrol in a study remains unrealized.
US law requires that many trials involving human participants be registered – and their results posted – on the largest clinical trial website ClinicalTrials.gov. But evidence suggests that this legislation has been largely ignored.
So a team of US-based researchers set out to estimate the frequency of non-publication of trial results and, among unpublished studies, the frequency with which results are unavailable in theClinicalTrials.gov database.
They searched scientific literature databases and identified 585 trials with at least 500 participants that were registered with ClinicalTrials.gov and completed prior to January 2009. The average time between study completion and the final literature search (November 2012) was 60 months for unpublished trials.
Registry entries for unpublished trials were then reviewed to determine whether results for these studies were available in the ClinicalTrials.gov results database.
Of 585 registered trials, 171 (29%) remained unpublished. Of these, 133 (78%) had no results available in ClinicalTrials.gov. Non-publication was more common among trials that received industry funding (32%) than those that did not (18%).
“Our results add to existing work by showing that non-publication is an important problem even among large randomized trials,” say the authors. Furthermore, the sponsors and investigators of these unpublished trials infrequently utilize the ClinicalTrials.gov results database.
The lack of availability of results from these trials “contributes to publication bias and also constitutes a failure to honor the ethical contract that is the basis for exposing study participants to the risks inherent in trial participation,” they add. “Additional safeguards are needed to ensure timely public dissemination of trial data,” they conclude.
- Non-publication of large randomized clinical trials: cross sectional analysis (medicalnewstoday.com)
- ‘Ethical failure’ leaves one-quarter of all clinical trials unpublished (blogs.nature.com)
- A third of clinical trials haven’t published results (alltrials.net)
- Scientists voice fears over ethics of drug trials remaining unpublished (theguardian.com)
- The State of Infectious Diseases Clinical Trials: A Systematic Review of ClinicalTrials.gov (plosone.org)
- Scientists alarmed over ethics of drug trials remaining unpublished up to five years after they’re finished (rawstory.com)
Seems the key is not poverty per se, but parental stress. Not that poverty is OK!
Thinking back to my Peace Corps days in Liberia, West Africa. Almost all the villagers lived in poverty (according to American standards). Yet I observed very little depression and much resilience in dealing with stress. I attribute it to the support network (largely nurturing) of family, kinship and tribal ties. While there was some behavior that seemed petty to me, there was a strong sense of community where people’s basic needs were largely met. Don’t have any studies to back me up on this, just personal observation.
Growing up in poverty can have long-lasting, negative consequences for a child. But for poor children raised by parents who lack nurturing skills, the effects may be particularly worrisome, according to a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Among children living in poverty, the researchers identified changes in the brain that can lead to lifelong problems like depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress. The study showed that the extent of those changes was influenced strongly by whether parents were nurturing.
The good news, according to the researchers, is that a nurturing home life may offset some of the negative changes in brain anatomy among poor children. And the findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents — particularly those living in poverty — may provide a lifetime benefit for their children.
The study is published online Oct. 28 and will appear in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers found that poor children with parents who were not very nurturing were likely to have less gray and white matter in the brain. Gray matter is closely linked to intelligence, while white matter often is linked to the brain’s ability to transmit signals between various cells and structures.
The MRI scans also revealed that two key brain structures were smaller in children who were living in poverty: the amygdala, a key structure in emotional health, and the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to learning and memory.
“We’ve known for many years from behavioral studies that exposure to poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children,” said principal investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, a Washington University child psychiatrist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “A growing number of neuroscience and brain-imaging studies recently have shown that poverty also has a negative effect on brain development.
“What’s new is that our research shows the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses that the children experience.”
Luby’s team found that parents living in poverty appeared more stressed and less able to nurture their children during that exercise. In cases where poor parents were rated as good nurturers, the children were less likely to exhibit the same anatomical changes in the brain as poor children with less nurturing parents.
- Poverty, neglect in childhood affect brain size, study says (thestar.com)
- Poverty, Neglect in Childhood Affect Brain Size – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Child poverty ‘can shrink brain’ (sbs.com.au)
- Child poverty ‘can shrink brain’ – Herald Sun (heraldsun.com.au)
- Poverty linked to brain size; study says smaller brains seen in poorer children (abqjournal.com)
- Nurturing may protect kids from brain changes linked to poverty (eurekalert.org)
Johns Hopkins researchers have demonstrated that levels of certain proteins in the bloodstream may be used to estimate levels of essential vitamins and minerals without directly testing for each nutritional factor. The team’s use of a new strategy allowed them to indirectly measure amounts of multiple nutrients in multiple people at the same time, an advance that should make it possible in the future to rapidly detect nutritional deficiencies of an entire population, apply remediation efforts and test their worth within months instead of years.
- New Testing Strategy Detects Population-Wide Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies (hopkinsmedicine.org)
- The Top Five Vitamins You Should Not Take (forbes.com)
Top 10 Innovations for 2014
Which are the up-and-coming technologies and which will have the biggest impact on healthcare in 2014?
Cleveland Clinic’s culture of innovation naturally fosters a good deal of discussion about new “game changing” technologies and which ones will have the greatest impact each year. The passion of our clinicians and researchers for getting the best care for patients drives a continuous dialogue on what state-of-the art medical technologies are just over the horizon.
This book was developed to share outside Cleveland Clinic what our clinical leaders are saying to each other and what innovations they feel will help shape healthcare over the next 12 months.#1 Retinal Prosthesis:
In a healthy eye, the rods and cones of the retina are specialized cells that convert light into tiny electrochemical impulses that are sent via the optic nerve into the brain, where they are decoded into images. However, if these delicate photoreceptors are ever damaged, the initial step in the process is disrupted and the visual system cannot transform light into images, leading to blindness…
Learn More|#2 Genome-Guided Solid Tumor Diagnostics:
Too often, men and women hear the words “prostate cancer,” “breast cancer,” and “colorectal cancer” from their doctors and they immediately think the worst. Many times the aggressive therapies are unnecessary that are offered or demanded. However, there are now genomic-based tests that can make these treatment decisions much easier and more reliable.
Learn More|#3 Responsive Neurostimulator for Intractable Epilepsy:
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that produces seizures—brief disturbances in the normal electrical activity of the brain—that affect various mental and physical functions. Seizures happen when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, which may briefly alter a person’s consciousness or movements. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, he or she is considered to have epilepsy.
Learn More|#4 New Era in Hepatitis C Treatment:
Hepatitis C infection, a common liver disease that affects an estimated four million people in the United States, is transmitted through exposure to infected blood (blood was not screened effectively for hepatitis C until 1992) or sexual contact with an infected person. The majority of people with the ailment don’t realize that they have the disease because of a lack of symptoms.
Learn More|#5 Perioperative Decision Support System:
Anesthesia is given to patients to inhibit pain, sedate the body, and also regulate various bodily functions in surgery. Today, there are 51 million hospital surgical procedures performed annually in the United States, most which are not possible without anesthesia. Before the discovery of anesthesia and the first painless surgery in 1842, surgical patients had their pain dulled with opium or copious amounts of alcohol. With the advent of many new medications and surgical monitoring equipment, we are now in the modern era of anesthesia and optimal surgical care.
Learn More|#6 Fecal Microbiota Transplantation:
Many hospitalized patients develop hospital-acquired infections, oftentimes due, paradoxically, to broad-spectrum and fluoroquinolone antibiotic therapy used for medical treatment. Antibiotics, which are supposed to kill bacteria, can also increase the odds of some people developing a dangerous and potentially lethal infection from rod-shaped bacteria called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.
Learn More|#7 Relaxin for Acute Heart Failure:
Heart failure is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body. Symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid retention are caused by a weakened or stiffened heart, significantly diminishing its ability to fill normally or effectively distribute blood. According to the American Heart Association, approximately five million people experience heart failure in the United States and more than half a million new cases are diagnosed annually in this country.
Learn More|#8 Computer-Assisted Personalized Sedation Station:
A colonoscopy is an exam that lets a gastroenterologist look closely at the inside of the entire colon and rectum for polyps, the small growths that over time can become cancerous. Using a colonoscope, a thin, flexible, hollow, lighted tube that has a tiny video camera on the end, the doctor sends pictures to a TV screen. The exam itself takes about 30 minutes. Patients are usually given light sedation to help them relax and sleep while the procedure is performed.
Learn More|#9 TMAO ASSAY: Novel Biomaker for the Microbiome:
There is a global hunt in progress using a variety of cardiovascular fingerprints—scientists call them biomarkers—that have been discovered or created to help identify the initiation, development, and ongoing cascade of damage caused by heart disease.
Learn More|#10 B-Cell Receptor Pathway Inhibitors:
Chemotherapy is a blunt instrument designed to indiscriminately kill rapidly dividing cells in the hope that the cancer cells die more and grow back less than healthy cells. That normal cells are routinely damaged in this destructive procedure accounts for the side effects and toxicity of traditional chemotherapy.
- Cleveland Clinic’s picks for top innovations in 2014: The bionic eye, gene tests for cancer (medcitynews.com)
- Cleveland Clinic Announces Top Ten Medical Innovations of 2014 (biospace.com)
- Smart thermometer is the favorite at Cleveland Clinic & StartUp Health’s venture challenge (medcitynews.com)
- IBM Research Unveils Two New Watson Related Projects from Cleveland Clinic Collaboration (sacbee.com)
From a recent email by Holly Ann Burt, Outreach and Exhibits Coordinator of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Greater Midwest Region
NCBI has released PubMed** Commons, currently in pilot phase, which is a new system that enables researchers to share their opinions about scientific publications indexed in the PubMed database. This is intended to be a forum for open and constructive criticism and discussion of scientific issues.
A new NCBI Insights Blog post provides more information and explains how researchers can join in!
For more information, please see:
PubMed Commons Homepage - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedcommons
NCBI Insights Blog post: “PubMed Commons – a new forum for scientific discourse”-http://ncbiinsights.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2013/10/22/pubmed-commons-a-new-forum-for-scientific-discourse/
Here’s a mock-up
**PubMed (a US government funded database) is the largest database of biomedical journals in the world. It comprises more than 23 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
- Enter PubMed Commons (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- PubMed now allows comments on abstracts – but only by a select few (retractionwatch.wordpress.com)
- PubMed now allows comments on abstracts — but only by a select few (thestackscat.wordpress.com)
- New Online: NCBI Launches Pilot Version of PubMed Commons (infodocket.com)
- PubMed Commons: Post Peer Review System from NCBI (hslnews.wordpress.com)
- PubMed Commons: Post publication peer review goes mainstream (michaeleisen.org)
- Research Tools: PubMed Now Offers Relevance Sort Option (infodocket.com)
- Post-Publication Peer Review: PubPeer (hslnews.wordpress.com)
- How the NLM Justifies Linking to PubMed Central Versions Directly from PubMed Search Results Lists (scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org)
CBS News online actually asked whether a scoop of peanut butter and a ruler could become the “elusive”…”single..definitive test” that could determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease.
I was away when this was published, but Ivan Oransky was all over it on MedPageToday.com. Excerpts of his analysis:
Reading CBS News’s headline, “Cheap Alzheimer’s Test Made From Peanut Butter and Ruler, Researchers Report,” reminded me of the old adage “Fast, good, or cheap: Pick two.”
A couple things made me wonder just how much of an advance this was:
- The study was small, fewer than 100 people all together, divided into four groups ranging from probable Alzheimer’s to healthy controls.
- The journal — which is not exactly a core clinical title — is ranked in the bottom third of neuroscience journals by Thomson Scientific’s impact factor, 162 out of 252. Wouldn’t the researchers have tried for a more prestigious, and clinical, journal first?
So we asked a range of Alzheimer’s researchers what they thought. Here’s a sampling:
Richard Caselli, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale: “I don’t think anyone will feel comfortable diagnosing AD on the basis of a smell test.”
Samuel Gandy, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine: “Smell tests for dementia screening have been proposed for years, but the lack of specificity has repeatedly undone the early claims. Ditto for eye tests. This might be the exception, but I would urge caution pending independent replication on larger numbers and diversities of subjects.”
George Bartzokis, MD, UCLA: “Do not dismiss the study. What is new here is simply what they used to test it out — peanut butter. The principal problem with smell tests is that they are nonspecific and therefore only one small piece of the diagnostic puzzle. Not only can you have some congestion in your nasal cavities that can reduce your smell on a temporary basis but a past head trauma, severe past sinus infections, etc. can do so on a permanent basis. Individuals may not even remember these past events or be aware of current sinus problems that could interfere with their ability to smell.”
I wouldn’t suggest that anyone dismiss the study. But I would suggest that they dismiss much of the news coverage of the study. Sampling of other headlines:
- Atlanta Journal Constitution: Peanut butter and a ruler: Keys to Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
- Daily Beast: Peanut Butter Can Detect Alzheimer’s
- Discover Magazine: Peanut Butter Test Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease
But the NPR Shots blog headlined it, Why A Peanut Butter Test For Alzheimer’s Might Be Too Simple.
[From the university's press release at
Research by scientists at the University of Liverpool has found that greater consideration of the limitations and uncertainties present in every infectious disease model would improve its effectiveness/usefulness and value.
Infectious disease dynamical modelling plays a central role in planning for outbreaks of human and livestock diseases, in projecting how they might progress and guiding and informing policy responses.
Modelling is commissioned by governments or may be developed independently by researchers. It has been used to inform policy decisions for human and animal diseases such as SARS, H1N1 swine influenza, foot-and-mouth disease and is being used to inform action in the campaign to control bovine TB.
In a study published in PLOS One, researchers analysed scientific papers, interviews, policies, reports and outcomes of previous infectious diseases outbreaks in the UK to ascertain the role uncertainties played in previous models and how these were understood by both the designers of the model and the users of the model.
They found that many models used to respond to epidemics provided only cursory reference to the uncertainties of the information and data or the parameters used. Whilst the models were uncertain many still informed action.
Dr Rob Christley, from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “It is accepted that models will never be able to predict 100% the size, shape or form of an outbreak and it is recognised that a level of uncertainty always exists in modelling. However, modellers often fear detailed discussion of this uncertainty will undermine the model in the eyes of policy makers.
“This study found that the uncertainties and limitations of a model are sometimes hidden and sometimes revealed, and that which occurs is context dependent.
“Whilst it isn’t possible to calculate the level of uncertainty, a better understanding and communication of the model’s limitations is needed and could lead to better policy.”
A model is produced by individuals who have to decide what is important and need to bring together data and information which could include population data, age of population, proximity, type of disease. Uncertainty can occur at all stages of the process from weaknesses in the quality and type of data used, assumptions made about the infectious agent itself, and about the world in which the disease is circulating, all the way through to the technical aspects of the model.
The research team comprised veterinary scientists and epidemiologists, sociologists, microbiologists and environmental scientists.
The research, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Lancaster and funded by the UK Research Councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use is, is published in PLOS One.
- Spatiotemporal Infectious Disease Modeling: A BME-SIR Approach (plosone.org)
- Outbreak: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease grants support research on disease transmission (hiscience.wordpress.com)
- Social media may provide clues into the spread of disease (globalnews.ca)
- Facebook and Twitter may Lend Clues About Infectious Disease Spread (medindia.net)
Study finds women’s breast tissue ages faster than rest of body
IMAGE: A newly discovered biological clock measures aging throughout the body.
Everyone grows older, but scientists don’t really understand why. Now a UCLA study has uncovered a biological clock embedded in our genomes that may shed light on why our bodies age and how we can slow the process. Published in the Oct. 21 edition of Genome Biology, the findings could offer valuable insights into cancer and stem cell research.
While earlier clocks have been linked to saliva, hormones and telomeres, the new research is the first to identify an internal timepiece able to accurately gauge the age of diverse human organs, tissues and cell types. Unexpectedly, the clock also found that some parts of the anatomy, like a woman’s breast tissue, age faster than the rest of the body.
“To fight aging, we first need an objective way of measuring it. Pinpointing a set of biomarkers that keeps time throughout the body has been a four-year challenge,” explained Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “My goal in inventing this clock is to help scientists improve their understanding of what speeds up and slows down the human aging process.”
To create the clock, Horvath focused on methylation, a naturally occurring process that chemically alters DNA. Horvath sifted through 121 sets of data collected previously by researchers who had studied methylation in both healthy and cancerous human tissue.
Gleaning information from nearly 8,000 samples of 51 types of tissue and cells taken from throughout the body, Horvath charted how age affects DNA methylation levels from pre-birth through 101 years. To create the clock, he zeroed in on 353 markers that change with age and are present throughout the body.
Horvath tested the clock’s effectiveness by comparing a tissue’s biological age to its chronological age. When the clock repeatedly proved accurate, he was thrilled—and a little stunned.
IMAGE: This is Steven Horvath, Ph.D., UCLA geneticist and biostatistician.
“It’s surprising that one could develop a clock that reliably keeps time across the human anatomy,” he admitted. “My approach really compared apples and oranges, or in this case, very different parts of the body: the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidney and cartilage.”
While most samples’ biological ages matched their chronological ages, others diverged significantly. For example, Horvath discovered that a woman’s breast tissue ages faster than the rest of her body.
“Healthy breast tissue is about two to three years older than the rest of a woman’s body,” said Horvath. “If a woman has breast cancer, the healthy tissue next to the tumor is an average of 12 years older than the rest of her body.”
The results may explain why breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Given that the clock ranked tumor tissue an average of 36 years older than healthy tissue, it could also explain why age is a major risk factor for many cancers in both genders.
Horvath next looked at pluripotent stem cells, adult cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell–like state, enabling them to form any type of cell in the body and continue dividing indefinitely.
“My research shows that all stem cells are newborns,” he said. “More importantly, the process of transforming a person’s cells into pluripotent stem cells resets the cells’ clock to zero.”
In principle, the discovery proves that scientists can rewind the body’s biological clock and restore it to zero.
“The big question is whether the biological clock controls a process that leads to aging,” Horvath said. “If so, the clock will become an important biomarker for studying new therapeutic approaches to keeping us young.”
Finally, Horvath discovered that the clock’s rate speeds up or slows down depending on a person’s age.
“The clock’s ticking rate isn’t constant,” he explained. “It ticks much faster when we’re born and growing from children into teenagers, then slows to a constant rate when we reach 20.”
In an unexpected finding, the cells of children with progeria, a genetic disorder that causes premature aging, appeared normal and reflected their true chronological age.
UCLA has filed a provisional patent on Horvath’s clock. His next studies will examine whether stopping the body’s aging clock halts the aging process–or increases cancer risk. He’ll also explore whether a similar clock exists in mice.
- Scientists discover DNA body clock (theguardian.com)
- Scientists Develop Biological DNA Clock That may Slow Ageing Process (medindia.net)
- Biological clock finding gives ‘young at heart’ new meaning (nbcnews.com)
Revealing influenza’s truly insidious nature, Whitehead Institute scientists have discovered that the virus is able to infect its host by first killing off the cells of the immune system that are actually best equipped to neutralize the virus.
Confronted with a harmful virus, the immune system works to generate cells capable of producing antibodies perfectly suited to bind and disarm the hostile invader. These virus-specific B cells proliferate, secreting the antibodies that slow and eventually eradicate the virus. A population of these cells retains the information needed to neutralize the virus and takes up residence in the lung to ward off secondary infection from re-exposure to the virus via inhalation.
- Researchers Discover How Flu Gains Foothold in the Body (news.health.com)
- Researchers Discover How Flu Gains Foothold in the Body (oddonion.com)
- Super Flu Vaccine Eliminates All Strains of the Virus (americanlivewire.com)
- Universal flu vaccine ‘blueprint’ (bbc.co.uk)
- How vaccines work (missvenecia.wordpress.com)
- Top Ten Myths About The Flu (charlotte.cbslocal.com)
Despite the common fear that those annoying tip-of-the-tongue moments are signals of age-related memory decline, the two phenomena appear to be independent, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remained unclear, according to psychological scientist and lead author Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia:
“We wondered whether these self-reports are valid and, if they are, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia?”
To find out, Salthouse and Arielle Mandell — an undergraduate researcher who was working on her senior thesis — were able to elicit tip-of-the-tongue moments in the laboratory by asking over 700 participants ranging in age from 18 to 99 to give the names of famous places, common nouns, or famous people based on brief descriptions or pictures.
Throughout the study, participants indicated which answers they knew, which they didn’t, and which made them have a tip-of-the-tongue experience.
Several descriptions were particularly likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment, such as: “What is the name of the building where one can view images of celestial bodies on the inner surface of a dome?” and “What is the name of the large waterfall in Zambia that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World?” Of the pictures of the politicians and celebrities, Joe Lieberman and Ben Stiller were most likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment.
Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments than did their younger counterparts, confirming previous self-report data. But, after the researchers accounted for various factors including participants’ general knowledge, they found no association between frequency of tip-of-the-tongue moments and participants’ performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.
“Even though increased age is associated with lower levels of episodic memory and with more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences…the two phenomena seem to be largely independent of one another,” write Salthouse and Mandell, indicating that these frustrating occurrences by themselves should not be considered a sign of impending dementia.
For more information about this study, please contact: Timothy A. Salthouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award from the University of Virginia.
The article abstract can be found online: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/08/0956797613495881.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=sppss;0956797613495881v1
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Do Age-Related Increases in Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences Signify Episodic Memory Impairments?” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or email@example.com.
- Brief Memory Test ‘Ages’ Older Adults (psychologicalscience.org)
Researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions today announced the successful use of a new type of antibacterial agent called a PPMO, which appears to function as well or better than an antibiotic, but may be more precise and also solve problems with antibiotic resistance.
- Beyond antibiotics: “PPMOs” offer new approach to bacterial infection (konterkariert.tumblr.com)
- Beyond antibiotics: ‘PPMOs’ offer new approach to bacterial infection, other diseases (eurekalert.org)
- UT Southwestern reports promising new approach to drug-resistant infections (eurekalert.org)
- AAP Updates Antibiotic Use for Sinusitis (wordofmomtoddler.wordpress.com)
- New Studies Show Drop in C.diff and VRE Infection Rates When Xenex UV Room Disinfection Utilized as Alternative to Bleach (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Stay Strapped: Anti-Bacterial Resistant Gonorrhea Among Dangerous Diseases Becoming Impossible To Cure (bossip.com)
A new paper suggests that lifestyle advice for people with diabetes should be no different from that for the general public – but diabetes may benefit more from that same advice.
In the study, the researchers investigated whether the associations between lifestyle factors and mortality risk differ between individuals with and without diabetes.
Within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a cohort was formed of 6,384 persons with diabetes and 258,911 EPIC participants without known diabetes. Computer modelling was used to explore the relationship (in both those with and without diabetes) of mortality with the following risk factors: body-mass index, waist/height ratio, 26 food groups, alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity, smoking.
The researchers found that overall mortality was 62% higher in people with diabetes compared with those without. Intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pasta, poultry and vegetable oil was related to a lower mortality risk, and intake of butter and margarine was related to an increased mortality risk.
While the strength of the association was different in those with diabetes versus those without, the associations were in the same direction in each case (see table 2 full paper). No differences between people with and without diabetes were detected for the other lifestyle factors including adiposity, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and smoking.
The authors say: “It appears that the intake of some food groups is more beneficial (fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta, poultry, vegetable oil) or more detrimental (soft drinks, butter, margarine, cake, cookies) with respect to mortality risk in people with diabetes. This may indicate that individuals with diabetes may benefit more from a healthy diet than people without diabetes. However, since the directions of association were generally the same, recommendations for a healthy diet should be similar for people with or without diabetes.”
- Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Advice Should be Similar for People With Diabetes and General Public (medindia.net)
- We Should All Live As If We Were Diabetics, Researchers Say (news.softpedia.com)
- Study shows that diet and lifestyle advice for those with diabetes should be ‘no different’ from that for general public (eurekalert.org)
- Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes? (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Study shows that diet and lifestyle advice for those with diabetes should be ‘no different’ from that for general public (fngnutrition.ca)
- Study shows that diet and lifestyle advice for those with diabetes should be ‘no different’ from that for general public (medicalnewstoday.com)
[From the article abstract - The Drug-Gene Interaction database (DGIdb) mines existing resources that generate hypotheses about how mutated genes might be targeted therapeutically or prioritized for drug development. It provides an interface for searching lists of genes against a compendium of drug-gene interactions and potentially 'druggable' genes. DGIdb can be accessed at http://dgidb.org/.]
Newswise — Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a massive online database that matches thousands of genes linked to cancer and other diseases with drugs that target those genes. Some of the drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while others are in clinical trials or just entering the drug development pipeline.
The database was developed by identical twin brothers, Obi Griffith, PhD, and Malachi Griffith, PhD, whose interest in pairing drugs with genes is as much personal as it is scientific. Their mother died of breast cancer 17 years ago, just weeks before their high school graduation.
“We wanted to create a comprehensive database that is user-friendly, something along the lines of a Google search engine for disease genes,” explained Malachi Griffith, a research instructor in genetics. “As we move toward personalized medicine, there’s a lot of interest in knowing whether drugs can target mutated genes in particular patients or in certain diseases, like breast or lung cancer. But there hasn’t been an easy way to find that information.”
Details of the Drug Gene Interaction database are reported online Oct. 13 in Nature Methods. The database is weighted heavily toward cancer genes but also includes genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses. The Griffiths created the database with a team of scientists at The Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.
The database is easy to search and geared toward researchers and physician-scientists who want to know whether errors in disease genes – identified through genome sequencing or other methods – potentially could be targeted with existing drug therapies. Additional genes included in the database could be the focus of future drug development efforts because they belong to classes of genes that are thought to make promising drug targets.
“Developing the database was a labor of love for the Griffiths,” said senior author Richard K. Wilson, PhD, director of The Genome Institute. “There’s an amazing depth to this resource, which will be invaluable to researchers working to design better treatment options for patients.”
Wilson and his colleagues caution that the database is intended for research purposes and that it does not recommend treatments. The primary purpose of the database is to further clinical research aimed at treating diseases more effectively.
“This database gets us one step closer to that goal,” Malachi Griffith said. “It’s a really rich resource, and we’re excited to make it available to the scientific community.”
The database, which took several years to develop, is publicly available and free to use. It includes more than 14,000 drug-gene interactions involving 2,600 genes and 6,300 drugs that target those genes. Another 6,700 genes are in the database because they potentially could be targeted with future drugs.
Before now, researchers wanting to find out whether disease genes could be targeted with drugs had to search piecemeal through scientific literature, clinical trials databases or other sources of information, some of which were not publicly available or easily searchable. Further, many of the existing databases have different ways of identifying genes and drugs, a “language” barrier that can turn a definitive search into an exhaustive exercise.
The Griffith brothers are experts in bioinformatics, a field of science that integrates biology and computing and involves analyzing large amounts of data. The brothers got the idea for the drug-gene interaction database after they repeatedly were asked whether lists of genes identified through cancer genome sequencing could be targeted with existing drugs.
“It shouldn’t take a computer wizard to answer that question,” said Obi Griffith, research assistant professor of medicine. “But in reality, we often had to write special software to find out. Now, researchers can quickly and easily search for themselves.”
The new database brings together information from 15 publicly available databases in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Users can enter the name of a single gene or lists of many genes to retrieve drugs targeting those genes. The search provides the names of drugs targeted to each gene and details whether the drug is an inhibitor, antibody, vaccine or another type. The search results also indicate the source of the information so users can dig deeper, if they choose.
The research is supported by a grant (U54 HG003079) from the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Griffith M, Griffith OL, Coffman AC, Weible JV, McMichael JF, Spies NC, Koval J, Das I, Callaway MB, Eldred JM, Miller CA, Subramanian J, Govindan R, Kumar RD, Bose R, Ding L, Walker JR, Larson DE, Dooling DJ, Smith SM, Ley TJ, Mardis ER and Wilson RK. DGIdb – Mining the druggable genome. Nature Methods. Oct. 13, 2013.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
- Database of disease genes shows potential drug therapies (medicalxpress.com)
- Online database of disease genes that could be targeted with drugs (indiavision.com)
- New approach subtypes cancers by shared genetic effects; a step toward personalized medicine (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Gene scans solve mystery diseases in kids, adults (news.yahoo.com)
- Discovery of 105 additional genetic errors that cause cystic fibrosis (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Nano-dissection identifies genes involved in kidney disease (nanowerk.com)
- Study Sheds Light on Wildly Heterogeneous Genes (medindia.net)
In memory of my mother-in-law who had severe osteoarthritis…
(CHICAGO) – The results of a new study by bone and joint experts at Rush University Medical Center suggest that patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) who wear flat, flexible footwear, which allows natural foot mobility and provide sufficient support for the foot, had significant reduction in knee loading—the force placed upon the joint during daily activities.
Findings from the study were published in an issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).
The research led by Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush, shows that long term use of the such footwear, called “mobility shoes,” helped OA patients adapt their gait or how they walk, which improved knee loading, even when the mobility shoes were no longer worn.
In previous studies, Shakoor and colleagues from Rush found that walking barefoot as well as with ‘mobility shoes,’ which are designed to mimic barefoot mechanics, was linked to reduced knee loading compared to when walking with regular footwear worn by participants. However, the authors thought the long-term effects of the specialized footwear need further studying.
“There is much interest in biomechanical interventions, such as orthotic inserts, knee braces, and footwear that aim to improve pain and delay OA progression by decreasing impact on joints,” said Shakoor, the principal investigator of the study who is also an associate professor in the department of internal medicine at Rush. “In the present study, we expand understanding of our earlier research by evaluating the impact of the mobility footwear on gait after six months of use.”
More than 27 million Americans over the age of 25 have some form of OA, which causes painful swelling and stiffness in the hand, foot, knee or hip joints. According to existing research, doctor-diagnosed arthritis will swell to 67 million U.S. adults by 2030. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 16% of adults 45 years of age and older are burdened with symptomatic knee OA.
The Rush team recruited 16 participants with knee OA, obtaining a baseline gait with participants walking in their own shoes, mobility shoes and barefoot. Participants wore the mobility shoes for six hours each day for six days per week and patient gait was evaluated at 6, 12 and 24 weeks in all conditions.
Findings suggest that by 24 weeks, participants wearing mobility footwear saw an 18 percent reduction in knee adduction moment (KAM), which is the load on the inner or medial aspect of the knee when walking compared to baseline knee loading in their own footwear. This is where most people develop knee OA.
No significant difference in KAM was found between walking with mobility shoes and barefoot. Compared to baseline, analyses indicate an 11 percent and 10 percent reduction in KAM for OA patients walking in their own shoes and barefoot, respectively, suggesting the mobility shoes may have “re-trained” participant’s gait.
“Patients with OA who use flat, flexible footwear may experience a significant reduction in knee loading with continued use,” said Shakoor. “Our investigation provides evidence that footwear choice may be an important consideration in managing knee OA.
The Rush research team involved in the study includes Roy H. Lidtke, Markus A. Wimmer, Rachel A. Mikolaitis, Kharma C. Foucher, Laura E. Thorp, Louis F. Fogg and Joel A. Block.
Please note: Based on the study results, a patented shoe design called X-Sole Relief Technology in Flex-OA has been developed by Dr. Comfort. The shoe has been available on the market since January 2013.
- Hope for knee osteoarthritis sufferers offered by ‘mobility shoes’ (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Researchers Report Wearing Certain Shoes Help with Knee Osteoarthritis (counselheal.com)
- ‘Mobility shoes’ take a load off for knee osteoarthritis sufferers (medicalxpress.com)
- Shoe mimics being barefoot with the goal of being pain free (wgntv.com)
- ‘Mobility shoes’ take a load off for knee osteoarthritis sufferers (eurekalert.org)
- Combined diet and exercise beneficial for knee osteoarthritis (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Exercise May Help Knees More Than Glucosamine And Chondroitin (wnyc.org)
- Diet-Exercise Combo for Knee Osteoarthritis Leads to Less Knee Pain, Better Function (medindia.net)
- Losing weight can save your joints from arthritis (express.co.uk)
- Shoe inserts don’t help knee osteoarthritis (douglassreport.com)
Just one study. However, interesting….
Monday, September 9, 2013SATURDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) — Electronic cigarettes and nicotine patches are equally effective at helping smokers quit, according to findings from what’s thought to be the first clinical trial to compare the two methods.
However, e-cigarettes were more effective in reducing cigarette use among smokers who didn’t quit.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. They turn these substances into vapor that is inhaled by the user.
The new study included 657 smokers who used either e-cigarettes, fake e-cigarettes (they didn’t contain any nicotine) or nicotine patches for 13 weeks. At the end of the six-month study, about 6 percent of the participants had successfully quit.
Rates of those who successfully quit were 7.3 percent in the e-cigarette group, 5.8 percent in the nicotine patch group and 4.1 percent in the fake e-cigarette group.
These differences were not statistically significant, according to study leader Chris Bullen, director of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues….
[Reblog-commentary on medical journalism] This is nuts: news coverage stating that great Dads have smaller testicles
Remember…just because two factors occur together, it doesn’t mean one necessarily causes the other!
Here, just because an involved father has smaller testicles, it does not necessarily mean that smaller
testicles enable one to be a better father!
Thinking that desires to get quick fixes or quick answers often get in the way of the necessity to take time and analyze reports objectively!
OK, I am bragging. But I have a whole Web page (with links) on how to evaluate health/medical information.
This is the kind of news coverage about a study that results in science and journalism about science losing credibility. To get warmed up, check some of the headlines:
- Great dads have smaller testicles, study suggests – CBC
- Study: Choose Dads With Smaller ‘Nads – TIME
- Study: You may be a terrible dad because you have enormous testicles – Salon.com
Or see countless other silly headlines in a simple web search that will come up with probably more than 100 news stories.
It’s all based on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Testicular volume is inversely correlated with nurturing-related brain activity in human fathers.”
It doesn’t appear that Emory University, home of the authors, distorted the findings. This Emory story states:
“Men with smaller testes than others are more likely to be involved in hands-on care of their toddlers, finds a new study by anthropologists at Emory University. …
Smaller testicular volumes also correlate with more nurturing-related brain activity in fathers as they are looking at photos of their own children, the study shows.
Our data suggest that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between investments in mating and parenting effort,” says Emory anthropologist James Rilling, whose lab conducted the research.
The goal of the research is to determine why some fathers invest more energy in parenting than others. “It’s an important question,” Rilling says, “because previous studies have shown that children with more involved fathers have better social, psychological and educational outcomes.” …
The study included 70 biological fathers who had a child between the ages of 1 and 2, and who were living with the child and its biological mother.
The mothers and fathers were interviewed separately about the father’s involvement in hands-on childcare, including tasks such as changing diapers, feeding and bathing a child, staying home to care for a sick child or taking the child to doctor visits.
The men’s testosterone levels were measured, and they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity as they viewed photos of their own child with happy, sad and neutral expressions, and similar photos of an unknown child and an unknown adult. Then, structural MRI was used to measure testicular volume.
The findings showed that both testosterone levels and testes size were inversely correlated with the amount of direct paternal caregiving reported by the parents in the study.”
The Emory blog post listed some of the study’s limitations:
“Although statistically significant, the correlation between testes size and caregiving was not perfect.
A key question raised by the study findings is the direction of casualty (sic: I’m sure they meant causality). “We’re assuming that testes size drives how involved the fathers are,” Rilling says, “but it could also be that when men become more involved as caregivers, their testes shrink. Environmental influences can change biology. We know, for instance, that testosterone levels go down when men become involved fathers.”
Another important question is whether childhood environment can affect testes size. “Some research has shown that boys who experience childhood stress shift their life strategies,” Rilling says. “Or perhaps fatherless boys react to the absence of their father by adopting a strategy emphasizing mating effort at the expense of parenting effort.”
While it could have been stated more clearly, that excerpt nails the huge leap from the assumptions of the study to any proof of cause-and-effect. It discussed correlation – not cause. In other words, it’s nuts to have news headlines like the ones I listed above.
There are countless ways to poke holes in the fMRI analysis of 70 men, but I’ll leave that to the experts.
The clamor for cutesy cleverness outpaced real scrutiny in most of the stories we’ve seen.
- A Discover blog: “So while it certainly takes balls to be a father, bigger is not necessarily better.”
- CNN.com: “It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which goes by the acronym PNAS (Yes, that’s chuckle-worthy in this context, so go ahead and laugh). …When I learned of this study, I immediately feared what could happen if it gets taken out of context. Dystopian future headline: “Deadbeat Dads Blame it on Large Family Jewels!” Dystopian future advice mothers give to daughters before marriage: “But will he be a good father? Weigh the wedding tackle!”
- TIME.com: “Perhaps it’s time to stop obsessing over penis size, and start to think more about those underloved lads underneath. A new study has suggested that testicle size plays a role in whether or not a guy is an involved dad, but this is one time less is more: the smaller the family jewels, the better the family man.”
CNN.com quoted one of the study authors succinctly: “Rilling says the study is not about “good” or “bad” dads.”
So again, where did all of those headlines come from?
And didn’t we have a possibly pending war, the unfolding Affordable Care Act, even another Anthony Weiner story to cover today instead of all the attention given this?
ADDENDUM: This is even more nuts. Each day I work really hard but may reach only relatively small numbers of people with articles that I think are important to try to improve the public dialogue about health care. Today my traffic is through the roof, and it’s all because I had testicles or nuts in my headline. And that, at least temporarily, put me in a prominent position on Google Search. Nuts.
- Study: Smaller testicles, more-involved dads? (fox2now.com)
- Dads with smaller testicles are better fathers, study shows (medicalnewstoday.com)
A new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine could help pinpoint ways to counter the effects of the antibiotics-driven depletion of friendly, gut-dwelling bacteria.
“Antibiotics open the door for these pathogens to take hold. But how, exactly, that occurs hasn’t been well understood,” Sonnenburg said.
In the first 24 hours after administration of oral antibiotics, a spike in carbohydrate availability takes place in the gut, the study says. This transient nutrient surplus, combined with the reduction of friendly gut-dwelling bacteria due to antibiotics, permits at least two potentially deadly pathogens to get a toehold in that otherwise more forbidding environment.
In the past decade or so, much has been learned about the complex microbial ecosystem that resides in every healthy mammal’s large intestine, including ours. The thousands of distinct bacterial strains that normally inhabit this challenging but nutrient-rich niche have adapted to it so well that we have difficulty living without them. They manufacture vitamins, provide critical training to our immune systems and even guide the development of our own tissues. Antibiotics decimate this gut-microbe ecosystem, which begins bouncing back within a few days but may take a month or more to regain its former numbers. And the ecosystem appears to suffer the permanent loss of some of its constituent bacterial strains.
It is thought that our commensal, or friendly, bacteria serve as a kind of lawn that, in commandeering the rich fertilizer that courses through our gut, outcompetes the less-well-behaved pathogenic “weeds.” It has also been suggested that our commensal bugs secrete pathogen-killing factors. Another theory holds that the disruption of our inner microbial ecosystem somehow impairs our immune responsiveness.
- The Environment Within: Exploring the Role of the Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease (ehp.niehs.nih.gov)
- Documentary: Rise of the Superbugs (stateofglobe.com)
- Fungi of the Murine Gut: Episodic Variation and Proliferation during Antibiotic Treatment (plosone.org)
- 5 things you should know about the human microbiome (yourmicrobiome.com)
- Study reveals role of ‘peacekeeper’ in the gut (eurekalert.org)
By Ben Thomas
Introversion, it seems, is the Internet’s current meme du jour. Articles on introverts are nothing new, of course—The Atlantic’s 2003 classic “Caring for Your Introvert” still gets passed around Facebook on a regular basis—but the topic has gained some sort of strange critical mass in the past few weeks, and has been popping up everywhere from Gawker to Forbes.
This latest swarm of articles ranges from glorified personality quizzes (31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert”) to history lessons (“16 Outrageously Successful Introverts”) to business essays (“Why Introverts Can Make Excellent Executives”) to silly, self-aware send-ups of the trend itself (“15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert”). The vast majority of them also come packaged with the assumption the reader understands the basic concept of introversion, and already has a pretty clear idea of whether he or she is an introvert or an extrovert.
The Science of Personality
In short, although the science of personality is still in the relative Dark Ages, researchers have begun to draw links between what these structural and functional brain differences between personality types might mean in terms of their respective peccadilloes.
But brain differences that correlate with introversion or extroversion don’t necessarily show which of these differences—if any—cause introversion or extroversion. “We don’t have experiments that really address whether those brain differences play a causal role,” Castro says. “We’re still pretty far from having … a scientific description of personality differences at the level of cells and synapses.”
And it’s important to keep in mind that our brain structures vary from person to person along all sorts of axes that inform our personalities—not just introversion and extroversion. As the science of brain mapping develops, maybe we’ll have a myriad of new spectrums we can use to describe our personalities in terms of our gray matter.
- David Hassell: Are Introverts Smarter Than Extroverts? (internetsuccess4you.wordpress.com)
- Ambivert Represent! (cszinegh.wordpress.com)
The day after I published this, I answered a related question about busyness at Quora.
Resources that were included in the answer are listed below.
With some 300 million people around the world living with asthma, a study by Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) researchers that was released ahead-of- print found for the first time that maternal smoking can cause the third generation of offspring to suffer from the chronic lung disease.
The study, published online by theAmerican Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, reported that maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy is linked to asthma in the third generation in disease models. This is known as a “transgenerational” linkage because the third generation was never directly exposed to nicotine or smoking. Previous research had found nicotine exposure was linked to asthma in the second generation, or was a “multigenerational” cause of asthma.
“Even though there are multiple causes for childhood asthma, research linking this serious chronic condition to maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy for up to three generations should give mothers-to-be even more reasons to reconsider smoking,” said Virender K. Rehan, MD, an LA BioMed lead researcher and the corresponding author of the study. “Eliminating the use of tobacco during pregnancy could help halt the rise in childhood asthma and ensure healthier children for generations to come.”
The current study “paves the way for determining the epigenetic mechanisms” behind smoking and the transmission of asthma to future generations, the researchers concluded.
Want to learn more about epigenetic? Here’s some good Web sites
- Learn Epigenetics (University of Utah)
HowStuffWorks “How Epigenetics Works” (How stuff works)
- Epigenetics (National Institutes of Health)
Related Psychiatric/Psychologic/Counseling Resources (via MedlinePlus)
- Mental Health Providers: Tips on Finding One(Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Psychotherapies(National Institute of Mental Health)
- Therapy and Counseling(American Academy of Family Physicians)
From the 27 August 2013 Director’s blog item (National Institutes of Health)
Once in a while a research publication reveals an entirely new perspective on a fundamental issue in biology or medicine. Today’s blog is about such a paper. The story, though complex, is very significant.
The choreography of human brain development is amazing, but quite mysterious. Today’s post highlights a study  that reveals the locations of some of the chemical choreographers that collaborate with DNA to orchestrate these fancy moves in the brain.
This complex developmental dance starts in the womb as our brain cells arise, migrate to their proper locations, and mature. By the time we’re born, each of us has close to 100 billion of these cells, called neurons. But that’s not all. The brain also contains lots of other cell types—especially glia. Glial cells were previously thought to act primarily as servants to the neurons, but they’re actually more like partners. Our birth inventory is just the first act. Over the course of our lives, our experiences and environment continue to shape and re-shape the brain’s connections, albeit in varying paces and patterns.
The millions of chemical tags that modify or mark the genome tell it what to do, and when and where to do it. Taken together, we call this diverse collection of chemical cues the “epigenome.”
Just as genetic mutations can lead to disease, glitches in DNA methylation may also trigger or increase the severity of brain disorders. Several studies have already linked abnormal methylation with disorders like schizophrenia, and conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury. This research is particularly exciting because these DNA methylation tags are not permanent. So, if we discover patterns of methylation that cause particular brain diseases, we can develop strategies to restore the healthy epigenetic profile—in effect, to bring those errant brain cells back in step with the dance of normal brain development.
Caption: Researchers mapped methylation sites in genomes of neurons and glia in the frontal cortex. mCH methyl tags, or non-CG methylation (purple stars), were absent at birth, but were added rapidly during the first few years of life and then more slowly until about age 30. After age 50, the number of mCH tags declined.
Credit: Eran Mukamel, Salk Institute
This study is a powerful example of how recent technological advances are revealing the secrets and complexities of the human brain—a process we hope to accelerate with the start of the BRAIN initiative!
 Global epigenomic reconfiguration during mammalian brain development. Lister R, Mukamel EA, Nery JR, Urich M, Puddifoot CA, Johnson ND, Lucero J, Huang Y, Dwork AJ, Schultz MD, Yu M, Tonti-Filippini J, Heyn H, Hu S, Wu JC, Rao A, Esteller M, He C, Haghighi FG, Sejnowski TJ, Behrens MM, Ecker JR. Science. 2013 Aug 9;341(6146):1237905.
 Sequence data can be downloaded from National Center for Biotechnology Information GEO (GSE47966). The analyzed data is also available for browsing.
- Brain DNA Methylation Increases Approaching Adulthood (futurepundit.com)
- Epigenomic Maps Show How Brain Circuits Change From Birth To Adulthood (healthbeauty4426.wordpress.com)
- Modern Parenting Style May Hinder Brain Development (thecollegefix.com)
- Brain Epigenome Found To Change Dramatically From Infancy to Adolescence (33rdsquare.com)
- Scientists find key signal that guides brain development (medicalxpress.com)
- A new way of thinking about how the brain works | Mo Costandi (theguardian.com)
- New mode of cellular communication discovered in the brain (psypost.org)
- Failure to destroy toxic protein — not buildup of protein itself — contributes to Huntington’s disease (sciencedaily.com)
- Don’t Let the Trash Pile Up For A Healthy Brain (medindia.net)
Mosquito season is in full swing, but new patch wants to save you from an itchy, scratchy summer – and help conquer malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the developing world.
Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and based on technology developed at the University of California at Riverside, the Kite Patch…
Caption: This is Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., and Steven Roberts, Ph.D., NIEHS.
A set of proteins involved in the body’s natural defenses produces a large number of mutations in human DNA, according to a study led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The findings suggest that these naturally produced mutations are just as powerful as known cancer-causing agents in producing tumors.
The proteins are part of a group called apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme catalytic polypeptide-like (APOBEC) cytidine deaminases. The investigators found that APOBEC mutations can outnumber all other mutations in some cancers, accounting for over two-thirds in some bladder, cervical, breast, head and neck, and lung tumors.
The scientists published their findings online July 14 in the journal Nature Genetics. Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., is corresponding author of the paper and a senior associate scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH. He said scientists knew the main functions of APOBEC cytosine deaminases were to inactivate viruses that attack the body and prevent ancient viruses present in the human genome from moving around and causing disrupting mutations. Because they are so important to normal physiology, he and his collaborators were surprised to find a dark side to them — that of mutating human chromosomal DNA.
The study is a follow-up to one Gordenin and his group published in Molecular Cell in 2012, after they discovered APOBECs could generate clusters of mutations in some cancers.
AUDIO: Dmitry Gordenin, Ph.D., NIEHS, discusses results of research published July 14, 2013 in Nature Genetics.
“The presence of APOBEC clusters in the genome of tumor cells indicates that APOBEC enzymes could also have caused many mutations across the genome,” Gordenin said.
Gordenin’s team at NIEHS, comprised of scientists from the Chromosome Stability Group, headed by Michael Resnick, Ph.D., and the Integrative Bioinformatics Group, headed by David Fargo, Ph.D., took the 2012 research one step further by applying a modern data science approach.
The group collaborated with co-corresponding author Gad Getz, Ph.D., and other colleagues from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Mass. They looked for signs of genome-wide APOBEC mutagenesis in cancers listed in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a cancer database funded and managed by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, both part of NIH.
Using APOBEC’s distinctive DNA mutational signature, they examined approximately 1 million mutations in 2,680 cancer samples, and found that, in some tumors, nearly 70 percent of mutations in a given specimen resulted from APOBEC mutagenesis. The mutation pattern, which appeared in clusters and individual mutations, could affect many cancer-associated genes.
Steven Roberts, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow who works with Gordenin, is first author on both studies. He explained that since APOBECs are regulated by the immune system, which is responsive to many environmental factors, he believes there may be a significant environmental component to APOBEC mutagenesis.
“We hope that determining the environmental link to these mutations will lead to viable cancer prevention strategies,” Roberts said.
In upcoming work, he and Gordenin plan to address why APOBEC mutagenesis appears in some cancer types and not others.
- Proteins Involved in Immunity That Potentially Cause Cancer Discovered (medindia.net)
- Scientists Discover That Proteins Involved In Immunity Potentially Cause Cancer (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Immunity Proteins Produce Cancer-Causing DNA Mutations (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Proteins associated with immunity may cause cancer (thehindu.com)
- Proteins associated with immunity may cause cancer (vancouverdesi.com)
Brandeis scientists bring us a step closer to understanding how to control cancer cells without harming healthy ones
The nasty side effects of radiation and chemotherapy are well known: fatigue, hair loss and nausea, to name a few. Cancer treatment can seem as harsh as the disease because it can’t differentiate healthy cells from cancerous cells, killing both.
But what if there were a way to control or stop the growth of cancer cells without harming other cells?
Brandeis biologist Michael T. Marr is one step closer to understanding how cells promote and inhibit protein synthesis — an essential part of cellular reproduction — during times of stress. His new paper, co-authored by graduate students Calla Olson, Marissa Donovan and Michael Spellberg, is published in eLife, an open access digital publication for life science and biomedicine research.
Marr and his team discovered a mechanism, like an emergency backup system, that allows cells to synthesize certain proteins while shutting down the production of others. Building proteins requires a chain reaction with a dozen moving parts, each triggering the next step. These chain reactions are called signaling pathways.
The pathway that interests Marr and his team is called the insulin and insulin-like receptor (IIS) pathway. It is part of the body’s emergency response system. When organisms are healthy and safe, the IIS pathway increases the activity of a protein complex called eIF4A, which helps in the synthesis of proteins.
But let’s say you’re not safe. You’re starving. Your body is being deprived of nutrients, forcing you to conserve energy and resources. The IIS pathway, sensitive to this stress, realizes something isn’t right, and sends a signal to stop eIF4A.
Protein synthesis screeches to a halt — for the most part.
Marr and his team discovered that the messages that build insulin receptor proteins have internal mechanisms allowing them to synthesize protein without the eIF4A kick-start. When the rest of the production line slows down, production of insulin receptors in the IIS ramps up. Why?
The hope is you’re about to find food. The insulin receptors help the IIS pathway recognize when it’s out of danger. The more receptors, the faster the IIS pathway can start ramping up protein production again. The same principle applies on the cellular level when cancerous cells overwhelm healthy cells, starving them of oxygen and nutrients — the healthy cells continue to produce insulin receptors.
“Even during times of stress, cells are stockpiling for good times,” says Marr.
The mechanism that allows synthesis of insulin receptors during stress is the same from flies to mammals, pointing to a response conserved in evolution, Marr says.
Though this research is still early, the more deeply scientists understand mechanisms involved in growth and inhibition, the better they can decipher diseases that rely on uncontrolled cell growth, like cancer.
- Is There a Way to Control or Stop the Growth of Cancer Cells Without Harming Other Cells? (medindia.net)
- One Step Closer To Understanding How To Control Cancer Cells Without Harming Healthy Ones (medicalnewstoday.com)
- New Method of ‘Starving’ Cancer Cells Developed (medindia.net)
- Cancer cure just got closer: scientists harness our natural-born killers – the T cells – to target malign tumours (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Treatment Offer New Hope in Quest for Non-Toxic Cancer Treatment (crystalcleandrinkingwaterblog.wordpress.com)
- Cancer’s Natural Enemy, Actually Starves It to Death (foodconsumer.org)
How cranberries impact infection-causing bacteria
Research points to potential role for cranberry derivatives in implantable medical devices
IMAGE: Professor Nathalie Tufenkji is in her McGill University lab.
Consuming cranberry products has been anecdotally associated with prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs) for over 100 years. But is this popular belief a myth, or scientific fact?
In recent years, some studies have suggested that cranberries prevent UTIs by hindering bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, thanks to phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins (PACs). Yet the mechanisms by which cranberry materials may alter bacterial behaviour have not been fully understood.
Now, researchers in McGill University’s Department of Chemical Engineering are shedding light on the biological mechanisms by which cranberries may impart protective properties against urinary tract and other infections. Two new studies, spearheaded by Prof. Nathalie Tufenkji, add to evidence of cranberries’ effects on UTI-causing bacteria. The findings also point to the potential for cranberry derivatives to be used to prevent bacterial colonization in medical devices such as catheters.
In research results published online last month in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, Prof. Tufenkji and members of her laboratory report that cranberry powder can inhibit the ability of Proteus mirabilis, a bacterium frequently implicated in complicated UTIs, to swarm on agar plates and swim within the agar. The experiments also show that increasing concentrations of cranberry powder reduce the bacteria’s production of urease, an enzyme that contributes to the virulence of infections.
These results build on previous work by the McGill lab, showing that cranberry materials hinder movement of other bacteria involved in UTIs. A genome-wide analysis of an uropathogenic E. colirevealed that expression of the gene that encodes for the bacteria’s flagellar filament was decreased in the presence of cranberry PACs.
The team’s findings are significant because bacterial movement is a key mechanism for the spread of infection, as infectious bacteria literally swim to disseminate in the urinary tract and to escape the host immune response.
“While the effects of cranberry in living organisms remain subject to further study, our findings highlight the role that cranberry consumption might play in the prevention of chronic infections,” Tufenkji says. “More than 150 million cases of UTI are reported globally each year, and antibiotic treatment remains the standard approach for managing these infections. The current rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics underscores the importance of developing another approach.”
Another recent study led by Tufenkji in collaboration with McGill professor Showan Nazhat, a biomaterials expert at the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, finds that cranberry-enriched silicone substrates impaired the spread of Proteus mirabilis. Those results, published online in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, point to potential use for cranberry derivatives to hinder the spread of germs in implantable medical devices such as catheters, which are frequently implicated in UTIs.
“Based on the demonstrated bioactivity of cranberry, its use in catheters and other medical devices could someday yield considerable benefits to patient health,” Tufenkji says.
Funding for the new studies was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs program, the Wisconsin Cranberry Board, the Cranberry Institute, the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies, and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.
Link to the Canadian Journal of Microbiology article: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjm-2012-0744#.UctRHjvqlLc
Link to the Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927776513002348
- How cranberries impact infection-causing bacteria (esciencenews.com)
- Cranberries Weaken UTI Bacteria’s Ability To Be Infectious (medicaldaily.com)
- Cranberries For Urinary Tract Infections – New Evidence (medicalnewstoday.com)
- How cranberries impact infection-causing bacteria (federalnutrition.com)
- Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly (dtnhomecare.wordpress.com)
Microbes can influence evolution of their hosts
New evidence supporting the hologenome theory of evolution
IMAGE: This is an illustration of the tree of life created in microbial culture.
You are not just yourself. You are also the thousands of microbes that you carry. In fact, they represent an invisible majority that may be more you than you realize.
These microscopic fellow travelers are collectively called the microbiome. Realization that every species of plant and animal is accompanied by a distinctive microbiome is old news. But evidence of the impact that these microbes have on their hosts continues to grow rapidly in areas ranging from brain development to digestion to defense against infection to producing bodily odors.
Now, contrary to current scientific understanding, it also appears that our microbial companions play an important role in evolution. A new study, published online on July 18 by the journal Science, has provided direct evidence that these microbes can contribute to the origin of new species by reducing the viability of hybrids produced between males and females of different species. [my emphasis]
This study provides the strongest evidence to date for the controversial hologenomic theory of evolution, which proposes that the object of Darwin’s natural selection is not just the individual organism as he proposed, but the organism plus its associated microbial community. (The hologenome encompasses the genome of the host and the genomes of its microscopic symbiotes.)
“It was a high-risk proposition. The expectation in the field was that the origin of species is principally driven by genetic changes in the nucleus. Our study demonstrates that both the nuclear genome and the microbiome must be considered in a unified framework of speciation,” said Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Seth Bordenstein who performed the study with post-doctoral fellow Robert Brucker.
They conducted their research using three species of the jewel wasp Nasonia. These tiny, match-head sized wasps parasitize blowflies and other pest flies, which make them useful for biological control.
“The wasps have a microbiome of 96 different groups of microorganisms,” [My emphasis]said Brucker. Two of the species they used (N. giraulti and N. longicornis) only diverged about 400,000 years ago so they are closely related genetically. This closeness is also reflected in their microbiomes, which are quite similar. The third species (N. vitripennis), on the other hand, diverged about a million years ago so there are greater differences in both its genome and microbiome, he explained.
The mortality of hybrid offspring from the two closely related species was relatively low, about 8 percent, while the mortality rate of hybrid offspring between either of them and N. vitripennis was quite high, better than 90 percent, the researchers established.
“The microbiomes of viable hybrids looked extremely similar to those of their parents, but the microbiomes of those that did not survive looked chaotic and totally different,” Brucker reported.
The researchers showed that the incompatibilities that were killing the hybrids had a microbial basis by raising the wasps in a microbe-free environment. They were surprised to find that the germ-free hybrids survived just as well as purebred larvae. But when they gave the germ-free hybrids gut microbes from regular hybrids, their survival rate plummeted.
“Our results move the controversy of hologenomic evolution from an idea to an observed phenomenon,” said Bordenstein. “The question is no longer whether the hologenome exists, but how common it is?”
- Microbes Influence Evolution Of Their Hosts – Research Confirms Hologenomic Evolution (planetsave.com)
- Our Destiny Lies Not In Our Stars, But In Our Bacteria (psmag.com)
- Gut Microbes Can Split a Species (news.sciencemag.org)
- Microbes can influence evolution of their hosts (sciencedaily.com)
- Gut microbes may put barrier between species (sciencenews.org)
July 18, 2013
New PTC Research Finds Teen Girls the New Target of Sexual Exploitation on TV
Source: Parents Television Council
New research from the Parents Television Council’s “4 Every Girl Campaign” found that underage female characters on primetime broadcast television are more likely to be presented in sexually exploitative scenes than adult women, and the appearance of underage female characters in a sexually exploitative scene increased the probability that the scene would be presented as humorous.
Study results revealed that out of 238 scripted episodes which aired during the study period, 150 episodes (63%) contained sexual content in scenes that were associated with females and 33% of the episodes contained sexual content that rose to the level of sexual exploitation.
The likelihood that sexual exploitation would be considered humorous increased to 43% when the sexual exploitation involved underage female characters. Topics that targeted underage girls and were presented as humorous included: sexual violence, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, pornography, and stripping.
- Study Finds Sexual Exploitation of Underage Girls on TV (entertainment.time.com)
- New Study Says Teenage Girls Are Sexualized On Network Television (themarysue.com)
- Teenage female characters often sexually exploited on TV, study finds (newsday.com)
- New PTC Research Finds Teen Girls the New Target of Sexual Exploitation on TV (paramuspost.com)
- Network Television Is None Too Kind to Teen Girls (jezebel.com)
- Female TV characters are sexual targets, says new study (cbsnews.com)
- Sexual exploitation of underage girls rampant on primetime, Parents Television Council says (scooprocket.com)
Doctors have a new way of thinking about how to treat heart and skeletal muscle diseases. Body builders have a new way of thinking about how they maximize their power. Both owe their new insight to high-energy X-rays, a moth and cloud computing.
The basics of how a muscle generates power remain the same: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle — but the power doesn’t just come from what’s happening straight up and down the length of the muscle, as has been assumed for 50 years.
Instead, University of Washington-led research shows that as muscles bulge, the filaments are drawn apart from each other, the myosin tugs at sharper angles over greater distances, and it’s that action that deserves credit for half the change in muscle force scientists have been measuring.
Researchers made this discovery when using computer modeling to test the geometry and physics of the 50-year-old understanding of how muscles work. The computer results of the force trends were validated through X-ray diffraction experiments on moth flight muscle, which is very similar to human cardiac muscle. The X-ray work was led by co-author Thomas Irving, an Illinois Institute of Technology professor and director of the Biophysics Collaborative Access Team (Bio-CAT) beamline at the Advanced Photon Source, which is housed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.
- Biceps bulge, calves curve, 50-year-old assumptions muscled aside (washington.edu)
- Biceps bulge, calves curve, 50-year-old assumptions muscled aside (eurekalert.org)
- ‘Muscle power truths’ revealed (bbc.co.uk)
2013 World Drug Report notes stability in use of traditional drugs and points to alarming rise in new psychoactive substances
At a special high-level event of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today launched in Vienna the 2013 World Drug Report. The special high-level event marks the first step on the road to the 2014 high-level review by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action which will be followed, in 2016, by the UN General Assembly Special Session on the issue.
- Prohibitionists Say the Drugs They Banned Are Safer Than the Ones They Didn't (reason.com)
- UN says Africa consuming more cocaine (ghanabusinessnews.com)
- New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) 2013 (dailyaltreport.wordpress.com)
- UK legal high market is EU's largest (bbc.co.uk)
- 2013 UN World Drug Report: Alarming Rise in New Drugs (kawther.info)
- Lure, Variety of Designer Drugs is Alarming, U.N. Agency Says (nlm.nih.gov)
- Mushrooming legal highs leave drug control system floundering, UN warns (guardian.co.uk)
- The Motherboard Guide to New Psychoactive Substances (motherboard.vice.com)
- Rise of designer drugs "alarming" from public health standpoint (medcitynews.com)
Al Lewis and I write our unique take on the meaning of the RAND report on workplace wellness programs...
From the 22 April 2013 article
Early trials suggest a host of allergies and autoimmune ailments could be treated with worm therapy, or infection with live worm-like parasites. But will it ever reach the clinic?
Jim Turk initially put his symptoms down to stress. The self-described “health nut” who was in training to run marathons suddenly found himself unable to jog for more than a couple of minutes before coming to a gasping, staggering halt. His speech began to slur. Turk, then in his early thirties, blamed the combined pressures of juggling a full-time job, studying for a master’s degree and his parenting responsibilities. When he collapsed in the middle of a baseball field one sunny afternoon in 2008 while coaching his son’s team, he realised it was time to seek help.
At the hospital, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed plaques peppered throughout Turk’s brain and spine. The diagnosis was obvious: multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune condition in which the body eats away at its own nerve cell casings. The cure: not known yet.
A month later, Turk saw an ad on the news seeking multiple sclerosis patients to try out an unusual new treatment at the University of Wisconsin, in his hometown of Madison. Patients were being asked to infect themselves with live pig whipworm eggs to see if the parasites alleviated any of their symptoms or slowed the spread of telltale brain and spine lesions. “I’ve always had a research interest so I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” Turk says. “Plus I was terrified and didn’t know what to do.”
When Turk arrived at the clinic, John Fleming, a professor of neurology, presented him with a vial of clear liquid. “It tasted a little bit salty but otherwise it was just water,” says Turk. “I couldn’t see the eggs or anything.”
For the next three months, he and four others visited the lab every two weeks to swallow doses of 2,500 parasite eggs. At the start of the trial, MRI scans showed patients had an average of 6.6 active lesions – scars on the protective layer around nerve cells that disrupt the transmission of electrical messages in the brain and spinal cord. By the end of the study, that number had dropped to two. Two months after discontinuing the worm treatment, the lesions rebounded to an average of 5.8. “The beauty of this is that the number of new lesions is really an objective, brutally honest answer,” Fleming says. “It’s not proof, it’s not definitive, but at least it’s promising.”………..
- Shrinkage of Brain Region May Signal Onset of Multiple Sclerosis (news.health.com)
- Parasitic worms ‘treat diarrhoea’. (zedie.wordpress.com)
- Take Two Poop Worms and Call Me in the Morning (motherboard.vice.com)
- Qld researchers’ cartoon fights off parasitic worm (abc.net.au)
- Intestinal Parasites (odinoid.com)
- Intestinal Worms as Clinical Treatment for Bowel Diseases (kingofthrones.wordpress.com)
- How Bone-Eating Zombie Worms Drill Through Whale Skeletons (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Parasite Worm a Medical Breakthrough? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Worms detected by converted iPhone microscope (bbc.co.uk)
The Genes to Cognition website addresses the world of modern neuroscience through lectures, fact sheets, papers, and other materials that cover depression, autism, bipolar disorder, and a range of other disorders. This particular resource is a video of a conversation with Dr. Daniel Pine on the different approaches to understanding disorders. More specifically, Pine speaks about how researchers are looking into how we might understand neurological disorders on the cellular level. Along with this conversation, the site also has links to several other related lectures. At the bottom of the page, visitors can view an interactive 3D model of the brain, complete with 29 structures that can be rotated for detailed viewing. [KMG]
- Autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia share common gene problem (rawstory.com)
- Improving Mood Symptoms In Children And Adolescents At Risk For Bipolar Disorder Through Family Intervention (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Five psychiatric disorders ‘linked’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Identifying The Genes Responsible For Autism Disorders Is Critical For Diagnosis And Treatment (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Five disorders from depression to autism share a genetic link, which could pave way for new treatments (dailymail.co.uk)
You are what you eat,” the saying goes, but is what you eat playing a role in how much you sleep? Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being. With the increasing prevalence of obesity and its consequences, sleep researchers have begun to explore the factors that predispose individuals to weight gain and ultimately obesity. Now, a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows for the first time that certain nutrients may play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration and that people who report eating a large variety of foods — an indicator of an overall healthy diet — had the healthiest sleep patterns.
The authors found that total caloric intake varied across groups. Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, followed by very short sleepers, followed by long sleepers. Food variety was highest in normal sleepers, and lowest in very short sleepers. Differences across groups were found for many types of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
In a statistical analysis, the research team found that there were a number of dietary differences, but these were largely driven by a few key nutrients. They found that very short sleep was associated with less intake of tap water, lycopene (found in red- and orange-colored foods), and total carbohydrates, short sleep was associated with less vitamin C, tap water, selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), and more lutein/zeaxanthin (found in green, leafy vegetables), and long sleep was associated with less intake of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat) choline (found in eggs and fatty meats), total carbohydrates, and more alcohol.
“Overall, people who sleep 7 — 8 hours each night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more. We also found that short and long sleep are associated with lower food variety,” said Dr. Grandner. “What we still don’t know is if people altered their diets, would they be able to change their overall sleep pattern? This will be an important area to explore going forward as we know that short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Likewise, we know that people who sleep too long also experience negative health consequences. If we can pinpoint the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote healthy sleep, the healthcare community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other cardiometabolic risk factors.”
- Does your diet influence how well you sleep? (cnn.com)
- Does Your Diet Influence How Well You Sleep? (healthland.time.com)
- Diet Affects Sleep Patterns, Study Finds (huffingtonpost.com)
- A Totally Unexpected Perk to Healthy Eating (cosmopolitan.com)
- Want to Limit Overeating? Get More Sleep (psychologytoday.com)
Marijuana, the most widely used illicit drug, may double stroke risk in young adults, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013.
In a New Zealand study, ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients were 2.3 times more likely to have cannabis, also known as marijuana, detected in urine tests as other age and sex matched patients, researchers said.
“This is the first case-controlled study to show a possible link to the increased risk of stroke from cannabis,” said P. Alan Barber, Ph.D., M.D., study lead investigator and professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “Cannabis has been thought by the public to be a relatively safe, although illegal substance. This study shows this might not be the case; it may lead to stroke.”
In previous case reports, ischemic stroke and TIAs developed hours after cannabis use, Barber said. “These patients usually had no other vascular risk factors apart from tobacco, alcohol and other drug usage.”
It’s challenging to perform prospective studies involving illegal substances such as cannabis because “questioning stroke and control patients about cannabis use is likely to obtain unreliable responses,” Barber said.
In the study, the regional ethics committee allowed researchers to use urine samples from other hospitalized patients. But researchers knew only the age, sex and ethnicity for matching due to a lack of consent.
The study provides the strongest evidence to date of an association between cannabis and stroke, Barber said. But the association is confounded because all but one of the stroke patients who were cannabis users also used tobacco regularly.
“We believe it is the cannabis and not tobacco,” said Barber, who hopes to conduct another study to determine whether there’s an association between cannabis and stroke independent of tobacco use. “This may prove difficult given the risks of bias and ethical strictures of studying the use of an illegal substance,” he said. “However, the high prevalence of cannabis use in this cohort of younger stroke patients makes this research imperative.”
Physicians should test young people who come in with stroke for cannabis use, Barber said.
“People need to think twice about using cannabis,” because it can affect brain development and result in emphysema, heart attack and now stroke, he said….
- Smoking cannabis ‘doubles’ risk of stroke in young adults (metro.co.uk)
- Could Marijuana Cause Strokes? (ivanhoe.com)
For some reason, these emotional intelligence studies reminded me of Dr. Beaumont, who in 1822 studied digestion through experiments on a man who had stomach injuries. A Wikipedia article gives a good summary.
A new study of 152 Vietnam veterans with combat-related brain injuries offers the first detailed map of the brain regions that contribute to emotional intelligence – the ability to process emotional information and navigate the social world.
The study found significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in terms of behavior and in the brain. Higher scores on general intelligence tests corresponded significantly with higher performance on measures of emotional intelligence, and many of the same brain regions were found to be important to both.
The study appears in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.
“This was a remarkable group of patients to study, mainly because it allowed us to determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence,” said study leader Aron K. Barbey, a professor of neuroscience, of psychology and of speech and hearing science at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.
- Emotional Smarts Tied to General IQ (scientificamerican.com)
With the rising awareness of the so-called “superbugs,” bacteria that are resistant to most known antibiotics, three infectious disease experts writing in the Jan. 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine called for novel approaches based on a “reconceptualization of the nature of resistance, disease and prevention.”
“Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect more than 2 million Americans every year and kill more than 100,000 annually,” said Brad Spellberg, M.D., a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center lead researcher and one of the authors of the viewpoint article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “They spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes, and they can make mundane urinary or intestinal infections life-threatening. At the same time, the development of new antibiotics to treat these infections is plummeting, leading to our call for entirely new approaches to the problem.”
Dr. Spellberg, author of the book, “Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them,” authored the article with Drs. John G. Bartlett and David N. Gilbert, both past presidents of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
The article’s authors called for continuing the traditional practices in “infection control, antibiotic stewardship, and new antibiotic development.” But they also write that the World Economic Forum’s recent conclusion that antibiotic-resistant bacteria represent “arguably the greatest risk…to human health” underscores the need for new approaches as well.
New interventions are needed
- “to prevent infections from occurring in the first place,
- to encourage new economic models that spur investment in anti-infective treatments,
- to slow the spread of resistance in order to prolong the useful lives of antibiotics,
- to discover new ways to directly attack microbes in a manner that does not drive resistance, or to alter host-microbe interactions in order to modify disease without directly attacking microbes,” the researchers wrote.
Among their recommendations are
- stricter monitoring and controls for prescribing antibiotics and
- changes in hospital practices, including greater disinfection and
- less usage of invasive materials than can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the body.
They recommended new regulatory approaches to encourage antibiotic development, such as the Limited Population Antibiotic Drug (LPAD) proposal from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. They said this proposal would encourage the development new antibiotics by allowing their approval based on smaller, less expensive clinical trials.
They also called for new approaches to treating infections caused by bacteria. Rather than attacking the microbes causing the infection, the researchers urged scientists to pursue new courses of discovery that either “moderate the inflammatory response to infection or that limit microbial growth by blocking access to host resources without attempting to kill microbes.”
- Analysis: Humans Losing War Against Antibiotic-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ (usnews.com)
- Chennai Declaration holds key for antibiotic resistance (thehindu.com)
- IBM and The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Develop New Antimicrobial Hydrogel to Fight Superbugs and … (finance.yahoo.com)
- New Partnerships To Combat Antimicrobial Resistance At The Superbugs And Superdrugs Conference 4-5 March 2013, London (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Gonorrhea superbug resistant to cefixime, other antibiotics (thestar.com)
- Hospitals warned as superbug cases rise (scotsman.com)
CHOP experts are co-authors of 2 large studies of outcomes after in-hospital cardiac arrest
Experts from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were among the leaders of two large national studies showing that extending CPR longer than previously thought useful saves lives in both children and adults. The research teams analyzed impact of duration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in patients who suffered cardiac arrest while hospitalized.
“These findings about the duration of CPR are game-changing, and we hope these results will rapidly affect hospital practice,” said Robert A. Berg, M.D., chief of Critical Care Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Berg is the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Heart Association’s Get With Guidelines-Resuscitation program (GWTG-R). That quality improvement program is the only national registry that tracks and analyzes resuscitation of patients after in-hospital cardiac arrests.
The investigators reported data from the GWTG-Resuscitation registry of CPR outcomes in thousands of North American hospital patients in two landmark studies—one in children, published today, the other in adults, published in October 2012.
Berg was a co-author of the pediatric study, appearing online today in Circulation, which analyzed hospital records of 3,419 children in the U.S. and Canada from 2000 through 2009. This study, whose first author was Renee I. Matos, M.D., M.P.H., a mentored young investigator, found that among children who suffered in-hospital cardiac arrest, more children than expected survived after prolonged CPR—defined as CPR lasting longer than 35 minutes. Of those children who survived prolonged CPR, over 60 percent had good neurologic outcomes…..
Related blog items
- Longer CPR for heart attack victims could lead to more survivors, claim researchers (dailymail.co.uk)
- Prolonged CPR May Boost Chances for Cardiac Arrest Victims (news.health.com)
- Take-home CPR kit offers efficient, effective training for families of children with serious health conditions (medicalxpress.com)
- Cooling Is Key To Protecting Organs After Prolonged CPR (pittsburgh.cbslocal.com)
- Skipping Mouth-to-Mouth in CPR May Save More Lives (medicaldaily.com)