Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

NCBI Develops Database of Genomic Structural Variations

From the October 21 NCBI announcement

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has developed a new tool to help scientists understand how differences in DNA sequences contribute to human health and disease.

The Database of Genomic Structural Variation, or dbVar, will help track large-scale variations in DNA sequences discovered in healthy individuals as well as people with conditions such as autism and cancer. The database also contains comparative data on wide variety of organisms, including plants and livestock, that are important to agriculture.

The human genome is made up of approximately 3 billion base pairs of DNA arranged into 23 chromosomes. In recent years, scientists have discovered that very large stretches of the genome can be rearranged, duplicated, or deleted. Some of these variations may be associated with disorders such as Down syndrome, while others do not have apparent impact on health. dbVar is one of several tools scientists can use to understand how genomic variations play a role in disease or affect a person’s characteristics.

“An enormous volume of data is now coming from studies that investigate genetic variation,” says NCBI Director, David Lipman, MD. “We are excited to be playing a role in this important area of scientific inquiry by making the data widely available to scientists and integrating it with other National Library of Medicine research tools and the scientific literature.”

dbVar was officially launched in September 2010. The database is part of an international collaboration that includes the recently-launched Database of Genomic Variants archive (DGVa) at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and theDatabase of Genomic Variants (DGV) in Toronto.  The databases are detailed in the October 2010 issue of Nature Genetics.

Members of the dbVar team are Deanna M. Church, John Garner, Timothy Hefferon, John Lopez, and Azat Mardanov.


October 27, 2010 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources | , , , | Leave a comment

Healthcare unwired: New business models delivering care anywhere


From a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Web page

Mobile devices are the most personal technology that consumers own, and they have the potential to enable health and wellness to be delivered through mass personalization. However, real value will need to be demonstrated to consumers and physicians in order for adoption to occur. New business models will continue to evolve, but PwC sees these fit into three main categories: operational / clinical business model, consumer products and services model, and infrastructure business models.

Case studies:


The free accompanying download is 1.45 mb.



October 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barbers: Cut, Shave, Lower Your Blood Pressure

[Editor Flahiff comment : this press release  reminds me of an article I read about 20 years ago. Beauticians were trained to refer clients to social service/health agencies when hearing their clients talk about issues touching on abuse and other safety and health issues]


From an October 25 Reuters Health press release

By Alison McCook

EW YORK (Reuters Health) – Black men with hypertension appear to benefit from regular blood pressure checks and advice from a somewhat unlikely source – their barbers.

A new study finds that training barbers to check their patrons’ blood pressure, offer advice and anecdotes, and even help refer the clients to a doctor if they don’t have one, appears to help men get their blood pressure under control.

Nationwide, barbershops are increasingly becoming a source of health information and a locus for health outreach, according to the authors led by Dr. Ronald G. Victor, associate director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in California, and this study shows it is a type of intervention that can work.

“It’s a proof-of-concept study,” Victor told Reuters Health.

Millions of African-American men have high blood pressure, and most do not have it under control – putting them at risk of serious illness and death. Barbershops are community gathering spots for black men, some of whom have been clients for years, visiting once every three to four weeks. As a result, some researchers have asked: Why not work health information into the cut and shave?

In the current study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Victor and his team asked patrons of 17 black-owned barbershops in Dallas County, Texas, to be screened for hypertension. They found that 45 percent of the shops’ clientele had hypertension, but only 38 percent of the men had brought their blood pressure down to a safe level….

[Editor Flahiff’s note: This article is only available online through paid subscription. Check with a local medical, academic, or public library for availability. The library may charge a fee for access or for a copy. It would be wise to call ahead and ask a reference librarian for details]

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | 1 Comment

Improving mothers’ literacy skills may be best way to boost children’s achievement

From an October 26 US National Institutes of Health press release

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health concluded that programs to boost the academic achievement of children from low income neighborhoods might be more successful if they also provided adult literacy education to parents.

The researchers based this conclusion on their finding that a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.

The analysis, performed by Narayan Sastry, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, and Anne R. Pebley, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, examined data on more than 3,000 families.

The study, appearing in Demography, was supported by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

[Editor Flahiff’s note: This article is only available online through paid subscription. Check with a local medical, academic, or public library for availability. The library may charge a fee for access or for a copy. It would be wise to call ahead and ask a reference librarian for details]

“The findings indicate that programs to improve maternal literacy skills may provide an effective means to overcome the disparity in academic achievement between children in poor and affluent neighborhoods,” said Rebecca Clark, Ph.D., chief of the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that funded the study.

After mother’s reading level, neighborhood income level was the largest determinant of children’s academic achievement.

The researchers undertook the study to isolate factors contributing to the disparity in academic achievement that other studies have found between children in low income and affluent neighborhoods….

….The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs,


October 27, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

NIH Scientists Discover Secrets of Helper T Cells Involved in Autoimmunity

From an October 20, 2010 US National Institutes of Health press release

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have redefined the roles of several cytokines involved in the generation of immune cells implicated in severe autoimmune diseases. The study in mice showed that development of Th17 immune cells can occur without the presence of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, a mediator thought to be required for Th17 cell development. The study demonstrates that the interaction of three inflammatory cytokines (proteins that influence the behavior of cells) – interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-1-beta and IL-23 – is responsible for the creation of Th17 cells that are more active in promoting autoimmunity than Th17 cells generated with IL-6, IL-1-beta and TGF-beta. These findings reemphasize the separate roles of IL-23 and TGF-beta in immunity and autoimmunity, and open up possibilities for the development of new therapies. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Nature….


Ghoreschi K, Laurence A, Yang XP, Tato CM, McGeachy MJ, Konkel J, Ramos HL, Wei L, Davidson T, Bouladoux N, Grainger J, Chen Q, Kanno Y, Watford WT, Sun HW, Eberl G, Shevach E, Belkaid Y, Cua DJ, Chen W, O’Shea JJ. Enhanced Pathogenicity of Th17 cells Generated in the Absence of Transforming Growth Factor-ß Signaling. Nature. 2010 October 21;467(7318): 967-971.



October 27, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , | Leave a comment

Take the Care for Your Air Tour

Take Care of Your Air Tour

Get a quick glimpse of some of the most important ways to protect the air in your home by touring the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) House. Room-by-room, you’ll learn about the key pollutants and how to address them.

You may take the tour using the Flash supported video, or through the text version.

The Take Care of Your Air tour is provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment


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