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February 23, 2007, 5:07 AM CT

Opening And Closing The Genome

Opening And Closing The Genome
At any given time, most of the roughly 30,000 genes that constitute the human genome are inactive, or repressed, closed to the cellular machinery that transcribes genes into the proteins of the body. In an average cell, only about one in ten genes is active, or expressed, at any given moment, with its DNA open to the cell' transcriptional machinery.

A dynamic cast of gatekeeper enzymes controls this access to the DNA, adding and removing particular molecules to open or close the genome to transcription as needed. Fully explicating the complex interplay among these enzymes and the molecules they manage has been a primary goal for researchers seeking to understand the mechanisms governing gene control. These mechanisms are vital for health-- when they go wrong, diseases like cancer can result.

In study published online February 22 in Cell, scientists at The Wistar Institute identify an important new player in this gene-control system, an enzyme responsible for removing certain molecules, or marks, involved in opening or closing chromatin, the material that makes up chromosomes. The activity of this enzyme is believed to be widespread in the genome, likely affecting a number of genes.

"This enzyme removes methyl groups from a specific location where they facilitate opening of the chromatin for gene expression, and therefore this enzyme maintains a repressed state of gene expression," says Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D., a professor at The Wistar Institute and senior author on the Cell study. Currently, Shiekhattar is also a professor at the Center de Regulacio Genomica in Barcelona. "When the enzyme is not present, however, the marks are not removed, and the chromatin remains open for transcription".........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


February 23, 2007, 5:02 AM CT

Aspirin For Conception And Healthy Pregnancy

Aspirin For Conception And Healthy Pregnancy
Scientists at the University at Buffalo and the University of Utah are beginning a clinical trial to test whether aspirin can improve a woman's chances of becoming pregnant and of maintaining a pregnancy to term.

UB's portion of the study is funded by a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development.

The trial is aimed at women who have miscarried a pregnancy in the past year.

"In women who have had their first miscarriage, the reasons for losing that pregnancy are in a number of instances unknown," said Jean Wactawski-Wende, Ph.D., UB associate professor of social and preventive medicine and principal investigator of the UB clinical center.

"These women generally are advised to try to get pregnant again, but health-care providers can offer limited assistance on any specific actions to take to improve their next pregnancy outcome," she noted. "If aspirin can help some women become pregnant or maintain a health pregnancy, it will be a critically important finding.

"Aspirin is available, inexpensive and has very few side effects," she added. "We're hopeful that this trial could produce an important finding".

Statistics show that in the United States, 10-15 percent of couples trying to become pregnant are not able to conceive, 15-31 percent of pregnancies that do occur end in miscarriage, and 8-15 percent of pregnancies that continue beyond 20 weeks end in premature birth, putting these infants at risk for increased health problems.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


February 23, 2007, 4:56 AM CT

Caffeine may prevent heart disease death

Caffeine may prevent heart disease death
Habitual intake of caffeinated beverages provides protection against heart disease mortality in the elderly, say scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Brooklyn College.

Using data from the first federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, the scientists observed that survey participants 65 or more years old with higher caffeinated beverage intake exhibited lower relative risk of coronary vascular disease and heart mortality than did participants with lower caffeinated beverage intake.

John Kassotis, MD, associate professor of medicine at SUNY Downstate, said, "The protection against death from heart disease in the elderly afforded by caffeine is likely due to caffeine's enhancement of blood pressure." .

The protective effect also was found to be dose-responsive: the higher the caffeine intake the stronger the protection. The protective effect was found only in participants who were not severely hypertensive. No significant protective effect was in patients below the age of 65.

No protective effect was found against cerebrovascular disease mortality death from stroke regardless of age.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 23, 2007, 4:53 AM CT

Why they are having trouble communicating

Why they are having trouble communicating
Especially among close associates, sharing even a little new information can slow down communication.

Some of peoples biggest problems with communication come in sharing new information with people they know well, newly published research at the University of Chicago shows.

Because they already share quite a bit of common knowledge, people often use short, ambiguous messages in talking with co-workers and spouses, and accordingly unintentionally create misunderstandings, said Boaz Keysar, Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.

"People are so used to talking with those with whom they already share a great deal of information, that when they have something really new to share, they often present it in away that assumes the person already knows it," said Keysar, who with graduate student Shali Wu tested Keysars communication theories and presented the results in an article, "The Effect of Information Overlap on Communication Effectiveness," reported in the current issue of Cognitive Science.

"Sharing additional information reduces communication effectiveness precisely when there is an opportunity to informwhen people communicate information only they themselves know," the scientists said.

In order to test the theory, the two created a communications game in which parties had unequal amounts of information. They prepared line drawings of unusual shapes and gave them made-up names and then trained University of Chicago students to recognize different numbers of the shapes.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 21, 2007, 9:45 PM CT

Taxol chemotherapy in breast cancer

Taxol chemotherapy in breast cancer
Cancer scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have taken a step towards understanding how and why a widely used chemotherapy drug works in breast cancer patients.

In laboratory studies, the scientists isolated a protein, caveolin-1, showing that in breast cancer cells this protein can enhance cell death in response to the use of Taxol, one of two taxane chemotherapy drugs used to treat advanced breast and ovary cancer. But in order to work, they found the protein needs to be "switched on," or phosphorylated. The results were published in the current (February 23) issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Their finding suggests it may eventually be possible to test individual patients with breast cancer for the status of such molecular markers as caveolin-1 in their tumors to determine the efficacy-to-toxicity ratio for Taxol, said the studys first author, postdoctoral fellow Ayesha Shajahan, Ph.D., of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown.

"Because breast tumors are not all the same, it is important to know the cancers molecular makeup in order to increase the efficiency, and lower the toxicity, of chemotherapy drugs, and this work takes us some steps forward in this goal," she said. "It also offers insights into why some breast cancer cells can become resistant to therapeutic drugs".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


February 21, 2007, 9:32 PM CT

Vitamin D May Reduce Falls in Elderly

Vitamin D May Reduce Falls in Elderly Diet rich in vitamin-D
New research suggests that reducing the number of falls suffered by seniors in nursing homes may be helped by taking a vitamin, along with other measures known to decrease falls. As per a research studyin Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, seniors taking a high daily dose of vitamin D experienced 72 percent fewer falls in comparison to those taking a placebo.

Approximately 50 percent of nursing home residents fall every year, and those who are injured become even more prone to future falls. As per study authors Kerry Broe and Douglas Kiel, "lowering the risk of falls with a simple vitamin D supplement could improve the quality of life for nursing home residents by reducing the occurence rate of falls".

"Past studies have shown that vitamin D could help prevent falls in seniors, and may be due to a possible strengthening effect the vitamin has on the musculoskeletal system. Until now, we didn't know what dosage amount would be effective," say Broe and Kiel. The dose that was most effective, 800 International Units per day, is higher than the dose typically prescribed to seniors. Taking this dose of vitamin D should be done only through the approval of a patient's doctor and certain conditions, such as high blood calcium levels, need to be considered by a physician.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


February 21, 2007, 9:02 PM CT

Reduced Brain Growth In Alcoholics

Reduced Brain Growth In Alcoholics
The brains of alcohol-dependent individuals are affected not only by their own heavy drinking, but also by genetic or environmental factors linked to their parents drinking, as per a new study by scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Scientists found reduced brain growth among alcohol-dependent individuals with a family history of alcoholism or heavy drinking in comparison to those with no such family history. Their report has been published online in Biological Psychiatry at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00063223 as an article in press.

"This is interesting new information about how biological and environmental factors might interact to affect children of alcoholics," notes George Kunos M.D., Ph.D., Scientific Director, Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, NIAAA.

A number of studies have shown that alcohol-dependent men and women have smaller brain volumes than non-alcohol-dependent individuals. It is widely believed that this is due to the toxic effects of ethanol, which causes the alcoholics brain to shrink with aging to a greater extent than the non-alcoholics.

"Our study is the first to demonstrate that brain size among alcohol-dependent individuals with a family history of alcoholism is reduced even before the onset of alcohol dependence," explains first author Jodi Gilman, B.S., a NIAAA research fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Brown University working with senior author Daniel Hommer, M.D., of the NIAAA Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies (LCTS) and co-author James Bjork, Ph.D., also of the NIAAA/LCTS.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 20, 2007, 9:14 PM CT

Gene profiling and resistance to Herceptin

Gene profiling and resistance to Herceptin
Using gene chips to profile tumors before therapy, scientists at Harvard and Yale Universities found markers that identified breast cancer subtypes resistant to Herceptin, the primary therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer. They say this advance could help further refine treatment for the 25 to 30 percent of patients with breast cancer with this class of tumor.

In the February 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, the scientists observed that HER2-positive tumors that did not respond to Herceptin expressed certain basal markers, growth factors and growth factor receptors. One of these, insulin-growth factor receptor 1(IGF-1R), was linked to a Herceptin response rate that was half that of tumors that did not express IGF-1R.

They also discovered that resistant tumors continue to over-express the HER2 growth factor protein -- an important finding given that a number of researchers had thought that loss of HER2 was likely responsible for Herceptin resistance.

"Herceptin has revolutionized the care of HER2-positive breast cancer for a number of patients, but unfortunately, not for some. This work demonstrates that digging deeper into the molecular subtypes of these tumors helps us understand why some tumors are resistant and may point to ways to remedy that," said the studys lead author, Lyndsay Harris, M.D., associate professor and Director of the Breast Cancer Disease Unit at Yale University Medical Center.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


February 20, 2007, 9:10 PM CT

Cause Of Chronic Dizziness

Cause Of Chronic Dizziness
Approximately 9 million to 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from recurrent bouts of dizziness and 3 million experience symptoms of dizziness nearly every day. As per a paper that appears in the recent issue of Archives of OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine observed that chronic subjective dizziness (CSD) may have several common causes, including anxiety disorders, migraine, mild traumatic brain injuries, and neurally mediated dysautonomias disorders in the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions.

Among the various forms of dizziness, clinicians have found CSD to be especially vexing. "Patients with CSD experience persistent dizziness not correlation to vertigo, imbalance, and hypersensitivity to motion, which is heightened in highly visual settings, such as walking in a busy store or driving in the rain," says Jeffrey P. Staab, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Otorhinolaryngology at Penn, and coauthor of the paper.

Staab and coauthor, Michael J. Ruckenstein, MD, Associate Professor Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Penn, studied 345 men and women age 15 to 89 (average age 43.5) who had dizziness for three months or longer due to unknown causes. From 1998 to 2004, the patients were tracked from their referral to Penns balance center through multiple specialty examinations until they were given a diagnosis.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 20, 2007, 8:04 PM CT

Tracking Personality Traits to Learn More About Alcoholism

Tracking Personality Traits to Learn More About Alcoholism
A long-term research project at the University of Missouri-Columbia is producing valuable information about alcoholism and individuals who are affected by a family history of the disease. MU psychology researchers, now several years into a multi-year study, have discovered that individuals from alcoholic homes maintain personality traits that could eventually lead to alcohol dependency.

Kenneth J. Sher, professor of clinical psychology in the College of Arts and Science's Department of Psychological Sciences, and psychology graduate student Jenny Larkins, have compared personality differences of individuals from alcoholic homes to those from non-alcoholic environments. They are monitoring the neuroticism and psychoticism levels of individuals from both groups. The neuroticism scale measures characteristics such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shyness, moodiness and emotionality. The psychoticism scale measures traits correlation to aggression, egocentrism, impulsivity and anti-social behavior. When the study began in 1987, individuals with family histories of alcoholism scored higher than their counterparts.

Over time and as participants in both groups aged, the scientists found an overall decrease in neuroticism and psychoticism levels. However, Sher said those from alcoholic homes maintained relatively higher levels of deviant behavioral and emotional traits during adult maturation.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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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