Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] NIH Researchers Develop Database on Healthy Immune System

From the 12 March 2015 NIH news release

Resource May Help Identify Mechanisms of Immune-Related Diseases

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 5.15.15 AM

An extensive database identifying immune traits, such as how immune cell function is regulated at the genetic level in healthy people, is reported by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators in the journal Cell. While many genetic risk factors have been linked to various diseases, including autoimmune disorders, how a genetic change causes susceptibility to a disease is not always clear. By studying healthy people, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center, part of the NIH, and colleagues from King’s College London have created a reference resource for other scientists.

The team analyzed blood samples collected from 669 female twins and developed a screening method that could differentiate approximately 78,000 subsets of immune cells, or immune traits. By using twins, the researchers identified which immune traits were most likely to be heritable and thus regulated at the genetic level. They selected 151 promising traits and performed a genome-wide approach to identify which, if any, genetic changes regulated a trait. They discovered 19 immune traits that were regulated by more than 240 genetic changes clustered within 11 areas of the human genome.
The results of this study have far-reaching implications, especially for researchers studying autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, lupus, type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. For example, genetic changes in the FCGR2 gene are known risk factors for several autoimmune disorders, including those just noted. However, it remains unclear how FCGR2 influences such a range of disorders. Now, researchers can use this new database to see how a change in FCGR2 or another gene affects components of the immune system and, subsequently, incorporate this information in the design of future studies.
M Roederer, L Quaye, M Mangino et al. The genetic architecture of the human immune system: a bioresource for autoimmunity and disease pathogenesis. Cell DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.046 (2015).
Mario Roederer, Ph.D., chief of the ImmunoTechnology Section in NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center, is available to discuss the findings.

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Exposure to Animal Agriculture Increases Prevalence of Nerve Damage

ARS Campylobacter jejuni

ARS Campylobacter jejuni (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


[Reblog] From the 25 November 2012 post at Scot Nass MD’s blog


From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Beef and dairy farmers are more likely to suffer from numbness and weakness, characteristics of peripheral neuropathy, compared with farmers who do not work with animals, according to new analysis of 16,340 participants of the Agricultural Health Study. The authors hypothesized that exposure to the common intestinal bacteria Campylobacter jejuni leads to greater risk of symptoms associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Guillain-Barré Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to muscle and nerve damage; it has no clear origin, although it usually appears after a minor infection. Dairy farmers also had a significantly higher prevalence of blurred vision, compared with farmers who had no exposure to animals.

Vegosen L, Davis MF, Silbergeld E, et al. Neurologic symptoms associated with cattle farming in the Agricultural Health Study. J Occup Environ Med. 2012;54:1253-1258. (12/13/12)




December 13, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Molecular Secrets of Ancient Chinese Herbal Remedy Discovered [& related Alternative Medicine Resources]

For roughly two thousand years, Chinese herbalists have treated Malaria using a root extract, commonly known as Chang Shan, from a type of hydrangea that grows in Tibet and Nepal. More recent studies suggest that halofuginone, a compound derived from this extract’s bioactive ingredient, could be used to treat many autoimmune disorders as well. Now, researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have discovered the molecular secrets behind this herbal extract’s power.

It turns out that halofuginone (HF) triggers a stress-response pathway that blocks the development of a harmful class of immune cells, called Th17 cells, which have been implicated in many autoimmune disorders.

“HF prevents the autoimmune response without dampening immunity altogether,” said Malcolm Whitman, a professor of developmental biology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and senior author on the new study. “This compound could inspire novel therapeutic approaches to a variety of autoimmune disorders.”

“This study is an exciting example of how solving the molecular mechanism of traditional herbal medicine can lead both to new insights into physiological regulation and to novel approaches to the treatment of disease,” said Tracy Keller, an instructor in Whitman’s lab and the first author on the paper….

Related General Resources for Complementary/Alternative/Integrative Medicine

  • MEDLINE plus: Alternative Medicine Trusted health information links from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Includes basic information, news, organizations, specific conditions, multimedia, financial issues, and more
  • Bandolier: Evidenced Based Thinking about Healthcare – Alternative Medicine
    The site brings together the best evidence available about complementary and alternative therapies for consumers and professionals. It contains stories, systematic reviews and meta-analyses of complementary and alternative therapies with abstracts.
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    NCCAM is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals.




February 15, 2012 Posted by | Finding Aids/Directories, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

NIH study shows 32 million Americans have autoantibodies that target their own tissues

NIH study shows 32 million Americans have autoantibodies that target their own tissues

From the 13 January 2012 Eureka news alert

More than 32 million people in the United States have autoantibodies, which are proteins made by the immune system that target the body’s tissues and define a condition known as autoimmunity, a study shows. The first nationally representative sample looking at the prevalence of the most common type of autoantibody, known as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), found that the frequency of ANA is highest among women, older individuals, and African-Americans. The study was conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers in Gainesville at the University of Florida also participated.

Earlier studies have shown that ANA can actually develop many years before the clinical appearance of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. ANA are frequently measured biomarkers for detecting autoimmune diseases, but the presence of autoantibodies does not necessarily mean a person will get an autoimmune disease. Other factors, including drugs, cancer, and infections, are also known to cause autoantibodies in some people…

“The peak of autoimmunity in females compared to males during the 40-49 age bracket is suggestive of the effects that the hormones estrogen and progesterone might be playing on the immune system,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and an author on the paper.

The paper also found that the prevalence of ANA was lower in overweight and obese individuals than persons of normal weight. “This finding is interesting and somewhat unexpected,” said Edward Chan, Ph.D., an author on the study and professor of the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Florida.

“It raises the likelihood that fat tissues can secrete proteins that inhibit parts of the immune system and prevent the development of autoantibodies, but we will need to do more research to understand the role that obesity might play in the development of autoimmune diseases,” said Minoru Satoh, M.D., Ph.D., another author on the study and associate professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Florida….

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment



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