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Research Effort Will Help Troops And Veterans
The goal of the Center is to investigate new approaches to diagnosing and treating neurological injuries and illnesses suffered by US military personnel - especially fighters stationed in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war - as well as veterans and the general public.
Research will be a collaborative effort involving a range of scientific disciplines.
"This is the only joint VA-DOD program with a neuroscience focus in the United States," observed Michael Weiner, MD, director of the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease at SFVAMC and the principal investigator of the overall research program. "We expect that the results of our research will lead to improvements in the neurological and mental health of active duty war fighters, post-active duty veterans, and the general population." Weiner is also professor of radiology, medicine, psychiatry, and neurology at UCSF.
The 19 principal researchers at the Center, whose research grants are administered by NCIRE, will conduct research on topics including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Gulf War Illness, brain and spinal cord injury, wound healing, bladder dysfunction, and other combat-related neurological injuries and syndromes. Projects represent a spectrum of investigation ranging from basic laboratory science to clinical diagnosis and therapy (see list below).
"The Neuroscience Center of Excellence is clearly on a trajectory to provide national leadership in neurological health and therapy," predicted Col. Karl Friedl, PhD, commander of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, which is funding the work of the Center. "This research program is beautifully focused on issues of great importance to soldiers returning from current deployments and veterans of all eras".........
January 2, 2006, 10:09 PM CT
New Drug Target For Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease have identified a potential new way to stop brain cell death related to Alzheimer's disease.
Working with cell cultures, the researchers investigated how amyloid beta (A?) proteins, which build up in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease, kill neurons. The cell cultures were established from brain tissue of laboratory rats. Study findings showed that A? could be prevented from causing neuronal cell death with a compound called resveratrol, which is also found as a natural ingredient in red wine.
"Our study suggests that resveratrol and related compounds may protect against neuronal loss associated with Alzheimer's disease," explains senior author Li Gan, PhD, a staff research investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and an assistant professor of neurology at UC San Francisco. "This could certainly open up new avenues for drug development".
The research results are reported in the December 2 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
According to the research team, it was especially interesting that the beneficial effect of resveratrol was not due to a direct effect on A? or on neurons but on other types of brain cells, called microglia.
Microglia are the immune cells of the brain. They can protect or hurt neurons, depending on which of their powerful defense or attack pathways are activated. The researchers found that A? triggers a pathway in microglia that makes them attack neurons with poisonous chemicals.
A key mediator in this pathway is a protein called NF?B, which resveratrol happens to block. Without resveratrol, A??activates NF?B in microglia, turning them into powerful neuron killing machines.........
January 2, 2006, 9:59 PM CT
How Brain Understands Language
Greg Hickok, professor of cognitive sciences, will lead a team of researchers from UCI, UC San Diego, the University of Southern California and the University of Iowa in this research that may one day help those with language disorders caused by stroke, Alzheimer's disease and autism. The grant is a renewal from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a component of the NIH, and will allow Hickok to continue the work he has done in this field since 1999.
"When we listen to speech, what hits our ears is nothing more than tiny fluctuations in air pressure, or sound waves," Hickok said. "The ability of humans to turn these sound waves into meaningful language is a complex task, one that we have not managed to replicate yet with computer voice recognition systems. This project will help us better understand how brain circuits can do what computers circuits so far cannot".
It is estimated that acquired language disorders, also known as aphasia, affect approximately 1 million people in the U.S., with 80,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Aphasia generally results from a stroke. Language ability is also often affected in those who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and from disorders such as autism. Understanding the basic circuitry of how speech is processed could help in treating these disorders.
Following on his prior work, Hickok, along with his colleagues, will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, which measures blood flow and allows researchers to map which brain regions become active during a task involving speech or language use. The team plans to conduct 200 fMRIs on healthy subjects, primarily at UCI.........
January 2, 2006, 9:55 PM CT
Molecular Imaging For Plaques
This is important news for about 14 million people in the United States who suffer from coronary artery disease and the 1.1 million who could experience heart attacks and death, noted Artiom Petrov, Ph.D., co-author of "Resolution of Apoptosis in Atherosclerotic Plaque by Dietary Modification and Statin Therapy." Atherosclerosis is the slow, progressive buildup of deposits called plaques on the inner walls of arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart, brain and other parts of the body. Over time, plaques-deposits of fat, cholesterol and calcium-can narrow coronary arteries, allowing less blood to flow to the heart muscle. Rupture of these plaques may result in acute (sudden) events, such as heart attack and death.
More than two-thirds of acute coronary events result from rupture of coronary plaques, said Petrov, a researcher in the division of cardiology at the University of California at Irvine. These plaques are likely to have large lipid (fat) collections, which are often associated with hemorrhages and harbor significant inflammation, said Petrov, explaining that inflamed cells often undergo apoptosis or suicidal death. An international team of scientists used the radiolabeled protein annexin A5 for the noninvasive imaging of atherosclerotic plaques in experimental rabbit models, binding it to the cell membrane surfaces of dying cells. By using a nuclear medicine procedure and exploring the role of diet modification and use of statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs, scientists found that "the radiotracer uptake demonstrated a significant correlation with inflammatory cell prevalence and the magnitude of cell death in plaques," said Petrov.........
January 2, 2006, 9:48 PM CT
Obesity And Alzheimer's Disease
A team led by scientists at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia has shown that being extremely overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. They found a strong correlation between body mass index and high levels of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance that builds up in the Alzheimer's brain and is thought to play a major role in destroying nerve cells and in cognitive and behavioral problems associated with the disease.
"We looked at the levels of beta-amyloid and found a relationship between obesity and circulating amyloid," says Sam E. Gandy, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences. "That's almost certainly why the risk for Alzheimer's is increased," says Dr. Gandy, who is also professor of neurology, and biochemistry and molecular biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. "Heightened levels of amyloid in the blood vessels and the brain indicate the start of the Alzheimer's process." The researchers reported their findings this month in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
According to, Dr. Gandy, evidence has emerged over the last five years that a number of of the conditions that raise the risk for heart disease such as obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia also increase the risk for Alzheimer's. Yet exactly how such factors made an individual more likely to develop Alzheimer's remained a mystery.........
January 2, 2006, 9:42 PM CT
Meditation Course Works to Reduce Anxiety
"Mindfulness meditation is a process that quiets the mind and releases physical distress. Through mindfulness, you can experience greater vitality and well-being," explains Diane Reibel, Ph.D., research associate professor of Physiology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and director of the Stress Reduction Program. "Participants learn how to quiet the mind and relax the body. They learn to identify early signs of stress and how to respond in healthier ways to stressful situations.
"The only requirements for the program are that an individual has a strong commitment to making a healthy change," Dr. Reibel, who is also a research associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, explains.
The Mindfulness Meditation program has been particularly helpful for individuals facing the challenges of illness such as chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, cancer, HIV or other chronic conditions.
The next eight-week course schedule is as follows:
Tuesday evenings from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m., running from January 31 - March 21. Classes will be held at Thomas Jefferson University in Room 101 of the Bluemle Building, located on 10th and Locust Streets, Philadelphia.
Wednesday mornings from 9:30 a.m. - noon, running from February 1 - March 22. Classes will be held at Thomas Jefferson University in Room 218 of the Curtis Building, located at 1015 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.........
January 2, 2006, 9:37 PM CT
Clinical Trials Urged For Paediatric Stroke
"There is a lot of uncertainty for clinicians when identifying the best therapy options for different types of paediatric stroke, as there is little to no evidence from clinical trials to support therapy decisions," said Dr. Gabrielle deVeber, the study's principal investigator, a paediatric neurologist and scientist at SickKids and an associate professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. "By compiling data on the largest number of children with stroke and the clinicians treating them, we were able to identify the most significant therapy issues facing physicians when dealing with paediatric stroke".
From January 1995 to January 1, 2005 physicians worldwide consulted the 1-800-NOCLOTS toll-free paediatric stroke telephone consultation service. The consultation service, run out of SickKids in Toronto , Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton and the Children's Hospital at Chedoke McMaster in Hamilton provided telephone support and therapy suggestions to physicians dealing with paediatric stroke. The paediatric neurologists and haematologists operating the line documented caller and patient characteristics, antithrombotic therapys and caller's questions for entry into a computerized database.
"While we were collecting data, physicians were also provided with patient-specific support by a consultation service through the use of an annually updated published paediatric stroke protocol," said Dr. deVeber, who is also director of the Children's Stroke Program at SickKids.........
January 1, 2006
French Court Allows Asbestos Warship Transfer
Asbestos was commonly used in ship buildingThe asbestos warship will soon start to its destination in India. A judge at the Paris administrative court ruled that the four groups had raised "no serious doubts" about the legality of the aircraft-carrier Clemenceau's transfer for decontamination in a shipyard in India.
A French court paved the way for a decommissioned warship insulated with asbestos to be sent for scrapping in India, after rejecting petitions by campaigners trying to block its transfer.
French authorities were waiting for the legal green light to tow the ship, currently docked at the French naval base of Toulon, to Alang in northwestern India, home to the world's biggest ship-breaking yard.
"In theory, the Clemenceau can leave," said Joel Alquezar, who represented the French state in court.
Environmentalist group Greenpeace and three anti-asbestos groups have tried for months to block the operation, on the grounds that Indian shipyard workers are not properly protected from the hazards of working with asbestos, which can cause a form of lung cancer.
The groups reject the state's assessment of the amount of asbestos still left inside the Clemenceau, which they estimate at around 100 tonnes.
Lawyers for the campaigners insisted the fight was not over, and said they were considering an appeal to the State Council, France's highest court -- eventhough such an appeal would not prevent the ship's departure.
Marine authorities in Toulon said on Thursday the Clemenceau was ready to leave as soon as it was authorised to do so.
December 30, 2005
Melanoma Risk Only Partially Associated With ultraviolet B
The report in the Dec. 21 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute also indicates that only nonmelanoma skin cancers (i.e. basal and squamous cell carcinoma) are strongly associated with exposure to UVB radiation.
That does not mean, however, that sunbathing poses a minimal risk of developing melanoma. Scientists say that ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, the rays in sunlight that reach the deeper layers of skin and are associated with signs of aging, can damage the DNA in melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells that give rise to melanoma.
"Eventhough we have refined the common wisdom that excess sun exposure is always associated with increased risk of skin cancer, the take-home message for the public is still the same - limit sun exposure and use a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays," says the study's lead investigator, Qingyi Wei, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology.
The study is a painstaking analysis of the ability of UVB radiation to damage a cell's chromosomes. Chromosomal injury is one way cells can become malignant; damage to the genes that make up the chromosome is another, and Wei and his clooeagues already have shown in prior studies that melanoma patients often have a reduced capacity to repair the DNA damage that results from UV exposure.
In the novel study, scientists looked at how often chromosomes break in cells from skin cancer patients compared with cells from a control group.........
December 30, 2005
Early Treatment Of Type 1 Diabetes Lowers Heart Risk
For the most part, it doesn't matter whether the mother is coached or not, the researchers report in the January issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And researchers noted that further study must be done to determine if bladder problems were permanent.
"Oftentimes, it's best for the patient to do what's more comfortable for her," said Dr. Steven Bloom, lead author of the paper and interim chair of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern.
In the study, UT Southwestern researchers focused on second-stage labor - the time in which the cervix is fully dilated and the baby begins to descend. This report follows an earlier one that found a rise in pelvic-floor problems among coached women.
The new study involved 320 women at Parkland Memorial Hospital who were giving birth for the first time, had uncomplicated pregnancies and did not receive epidural anesthesia. They were randomly assigned, with both groups tended by nurse-midwives. Of the two groups, 163 were coached to push for 10 seconds during a contraction, and 157 told to "do what comes naturally".
For women who were randomly assigned to the coaching group, the second stage of labor was shortened by 13 minutes, from 59 to 46 minutes.
"There were no other findings to show that coaching or not coaching was advantageous or harmful," Dr. Bloom said.
The earlier study, reported in the January issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, involved the same group of women. In it, researchers investigated whether coaching causes long-term problems to the mother's pelvic region.........
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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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