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March 22, 2007, 10:37 PM CT

Viral enzyme recruited in fight against ear infection

Viral enzyme recruited in fight against ear infection
Parents might one day give their children a weekly therapy with a nasal spray of virus enzymes to prevent them from getting a severe middle ear infection, based on results of a study done in mice by researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and The Rockefeller University in New York. Such a therapy would kill the disease-causing bacteria without the use of antibiotics, thereby avoiding the problem of antibiotic resistance. A report on this study appears in the recent issue of the online journal "PLoS Pathogens."

Middle ear infection, also called acute otitis media, is an inflammation of the middle ear space that can cause pain, fever, irritability, lack of appetite and vomiting. The middle ear is the space just before the eardrum. About half of all children carry the bacteria that cause acute otitis media, which migrate from the nose and throat to the middle ear after an initial influenza virus infection paves the way.

The researchers based their therapy on the ability of viruses called phages to break out of bacteria they infect by using a special enzyme to destroy the cell walls. Phages infect bacteria in a way that is similar to how viruses infect animal cells. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cells biochemical machinery and forces it to make a number of copies of the virus. After the new crop of viruses is made, a viral enzyme breaks apart the infected bacterial cell wall and allows the new viruses to escape and infect additional cells.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:36 PM CT

Experience affects new neuron survival

Experience affects new neuron survival
Experience in the early development of new neurons in specific brain regions affects their survival and activity in the adult brain, new research shows. How these new neurons store information about these experiences may explain how they can affect learning and memory in adults.

A team of scientists headed by Fred Gage, PhD, of the Salk Institute, observed that experience enhances the survival of new neurons in a brain area called the dentate gyrus, and that more of these new neurons were activated when exposed to the same experience later. This change in function may be a mechanism for long-term memory. The findings appear in the March 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience

"The results identify a critical period for experience-induced enhancement of new neuron survival in the hippocampus," says Elizabeth Gould, PhD, of Princeton University, who was not affiliated with the study. The hippocampus contains the dentate gyrus.

After injecting mice with a chemical used to mark proliferating cells, the scientists exposed the animals to an "enriched cage" environment, containing tunnels, shelters, and a running wheel. After several weeks, the scientists again exposed the mice in the same enriched experience. They discovered that the enriched experience increased new neuron survival and that more new neurons were activated by re-exposure to the same environment. To determine if the increase in neuronal activity was due to having the same experience or if any new experience was sufficient to achieve this effect, the scientists exposed mice to the enriched cage first and then a water maze task. While both cases promoted new neuron survival, more new neurons were activated in mice that had repeated the same experience but not in those that were exposed to the different experience (the water maze).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:31 PM CT

Getting older provides positive outlook

Getting older provides positive outlook
Research conducted at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs proves not everything goes downhill when it comes to aging.

Elderly adults exhibit a better balance than younger adults in the way they process emotional information from the environment, as per research completed by Michael Kisley, assistant professor, Psychology, along with his collaborator, Stacey Wood from Scripps College and with the assistance of students at UCCS.

More than 150 participants viewed images determined to be positive (a bowl of chocolate ice cream, pretty sunsets), neutral (a chair, a fork) and negative (a dead cat in the road, a car crash). Viewing images for only seconds, participants clicked a mouse to categorize these photographs while their brain reaction was monitored.

"Whereas younger adults often pay more attention to emotionally negative information, elderly adults tend to assign equal importance to emotionally positive information," explained Kisley. "This has implications for a number of domains including, for example, decision making."

"Like prior studies, we observed that younger adults, 18-25, tended to pay more attention to emotionally negative images than to positive ones," Kisley said. "But the new finding from our study was that the elderly adults, ages 55 plus, didnt show this so-called negative bias. Instead they tended to show a better balance between paying attention to both negative and positive images."........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:16 PM CT

Robotic brace for stroke recovery

Robotic brace for stroke recovery Maggie Fermental, a stroke survivor and study participant, regained full motion at the elbow after 18 hours using the device and has maintained her progress to date. Photo courtesy / Myomo, Inc.
At age 32, Maggie Fermental suffered a stroke that left her right side paralyzed. After a year and a half of conventional treatment with minimal results, she tried a new kind of robotic treatment developed by MIT engineers. A study to appear in the April 2007 issue of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation shows that the device, which helped Fermental, also had positive results for five other severe stroke patients in a pilot clinical trial.

Fermental, a former surgical nurse, used the rehabilitation device 18 times over nine weeks. After 16 sessions, Fermental, now a stroke education nurse at Beth Israel Hospital, was able to fully bend and straighten her elbow on her own for the first time since the stroke. "It was incredible to be able to move my arm again on command," she said. "Cooking, dressing, shopping, turning on light switches, opening cabinets--it's easier now that I have two arms again".

The device--which sensed Fermental's electrical muscle activity and provided power assistance to facilitate her movements--also altered her brain.

Following a stroke, the destruction of brain cells leads to loss of motor function. With painstakingly repetitive exercise treatment, other neurons can take over some of the lost function. Devices such as the MIT-developed robotic brace can help people exploit their neural plasticity--the increasingly recognized ability of the brain to rewire itself in response to experience and training.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:13 PM CT

Leukemic cells find safe haven

Leukemic cells find safe haven
The cancer drug asparaginase fails to help cure some children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) because molecules released by certain cells in the bone marrow counteract the effect of that drug, as per researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The scientists showed that mesenchymal cells in the bone marrow create a protective niche for leukemic cells by releasing large amounts of asparagine, an amino acid that nearby leukemic cells must have to survive but do not make efficiently. This extra supply of asparagine helps leukemic cells survive therapy with asparaginase, a drug that normally would deplete their supply of this vital nutrient, the scientists reported. Mesenchymal cells give rise to a variety of different tissues, such as osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and chondrocytes (cartilage-building cells), and form the nurturing environment where normal blood cells and leukemic cells grow.

"Leukemic cells that resist asparaginase and survive in this protective niche of the bone marrow might be the reason that leukemia recurs in some children who have been treated with this drug," said Dario Campana, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Oncology and Pathology departments.

Campana is senior author of the report that appears in the online pre-publication issue of "The Journal of Clinical Investigation."........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 4:59 AM CT

Phone-based therapy for depression

Phone-based therapy for depression
When people receive brief telephone-based psychotherapy soon after starting on antidepressant medication, strong positive effects may continue 18 months after their first session. So concludes a Group Health study in the April Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

This paper describes one more year of follow-up since a 2004 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report on the same random sample of Group Health patients.

With close to 400 patients, this is the largest study yet of psychotherapy delivered over the telephone, said Evette J. Ludman, PhD, senior research associate, Group Health Center for Health Studies, the papers lead author. Its also the first to study the effectiveness of combining phone-based treatment with antidepressant drug therapy as provided in everyday medical practice.

Long-term positive effects of initially adding phone-based treatment included improvements in patients symptoms of depression and satisfaction with their care, said Ludman. At 18 months, 77 percent of those who got phone-based treatment (but only 63 percent of those receiving regular care) reported their depression was much or very much improved. Those who received phone-based treatment were slightly better at taking their antidepressant medicine as recommended, but that did not account for most of their improvement. And effects were stronger for patients with moderate to severe depression than for those with mild depression.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 4:55 AM CT

Energy supplement for Parkinson's disease

Energy supplement for Parkinson's disease Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, Medical College of Georgia
Credit: Medical College of Georgia
Whether a supplement used by athletes to boost energy levels and build muscle can slow progression of Parkinsons disease is the focus of a North American study.

Creatine, under study for many neurological and neuromuscular diseases such as Lou Gehrigs and muscular dystrophy, may help Parkinsons patients by giving an energy boost to dying cells, says Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, neurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical College of Georgia.

We think it may help cells that are damaged or overworked, says Dr. Sethi, a site principal investigator on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke study. MCG hopes to recruit 45 patients for the study that will enroll 1,720 patients at 51 sites in the United States and Canada.

Mitochondria, the powerhouse for cells, become dysfunctional in the brain, muscle and platelet cells of a number of patients with Parkinsons disease, Dr. Sethi says. Powerhouse dysfunction is discernible in postmortem brain studies and in muscle biopsies and measures of platelet activity in the living.

By giving more energy to the cell, you are giving them a safety margin, Dr. Sethi says. If a cell is dying, it takes another route and that would be surviving.

The goal is to slow progression of a disease that affects about 1 million people in North America. Hallmarks include tremors, rigidity and slowed movement. Late in the disease, the majority of patients also develop dementia and behavior disorders.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 21, 2007, 10:12 PM CT

On Wandering Minds

On Wandering Minds
Do your thoughts stray from your work or studies? Do you catch yourself making to-do lists when your attention should be elsewhere? Welcome to the club.

College students reported mind-wandering almost one-third of the time in their daily lives, as per a new study led by faculty and graduate students at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The study would be reported in the recent issue of Psychological Science.

The study followed 124 undergraduates, who carried personal digital assistants for a week. The PDAs signaled the students eight times a day between noon and midnight to report whether their thoughts were wandering away from what they were doing and to answer multiple-choice questions about their current activity, surroundings and state of mind.

On average, the students reported mind-wandering in about 30 percent of their responses. But individual results varied widely: One student reported no mind wandering, while another reported it in more than 90 percent of responses.

Despite being so common, mind-wandering remains little studied and poorly understood, said Dr. Michael Kane, an associate professor of psychology at UNCG, who led the study. If you want to understand peoples mental lives, this is a phenomenon we ought to be thinking about, he told the Associated Press.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 21, 2007, 9:47 PM CT

Morphine kills pain -- not patients

Morphine kills pain -- not patients
A number of people, including health care workers, think that morphine is a lethal drug that causes death when used to control pain for a patient who is dying. That is a misconception as per new research reported in the latest issue of Palliative Medicine, from SAGE Publications.

Two articles in the peer-evaluated journal address research led by Professor Bassam Estfan of The Taussig Cancer Center in which patients in a specialist palliative care in-patient unit with severe cancer pain were treated with morphine, a type of opioid. Their vital statistics were monitored before and after the pain was controlled and there were no significant changes. Morphine did not cause respiratory depression, the mechanism by which lethal opioid overdose typically kills.

Unlike a number of other drugs, morphine has a very wide safety margin, wrote Dr Rob George, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, from the University College London, in his commentary about the research. Evidence over the last 20 years has repeatedly shown that, used correctly, morphine is well tolerated, does not cloud the mind, does not shorten life, and its sedating effects wear off quickly. This is obviously good for patients in pain.

There is no evidence to suggest that morphine is a killer, Dr George continued. It could be perceived that not to give it is an act of brutality. We urge those in the medical community to understand the facts about morphine and other opioids its time to set the record straight. Doctors should feel free to manage pain with doses adjusted to individual patients so that the patients can be comfortable and be able to live with dignity until they die.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 21, 2007, 9:08 PM CT

Breast surgery linked to boost in self-esteem

Breast surgery linked to boost in self-esteem
Women who undergo breast enlargement often see a sizable boost in self-esteem and positive feelings about their sexuality, a University of Florida nurse researcher reports.

Eventhough plastic surgery should not be seen as a panacea for feelings of low self-worth or sexual attractiveness, it is important for health-care practitioners to understand the psychological benefits of these procedures, says Cynthia Figueroa-Haas, a clinical assistant professor at UFs College of Nursing who conducted the study. The findings which revealed that for a number of women, going bigger is better appear in the current issue of Plastic Surgical Nursing.

A number of individuals, including health-care providers, have preconceived negative ideas about those who elect to have plastic surgery, without fully understanding the benefits that may occur from these procedures, said Figueroa-Haas, who conducted the study for her doctoral thesis at Barry University in Miami Shores before joining the UF faculty. This study provides the impetus for future studies correlation to self-esteem, human sexuality and cosmetic surgery.

In 2005, 2.1 million cosmetic surgical procedures were performed, as per the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. That figure is expected to grow. Consider that the number of breast augmentation procedures alone increased a staggering 476 percent since 2000, as per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. More than 2 million women in the United States have breast implants, and this year more than 360,000 American women will undergo breast augmentation.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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