Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Making artificial blood for transfusions

ACS: Blood transfusions can save the lives of patients who have suffered major blood loss, but hospitals don’t always have enough or the right type on hand. In search of a solution, researchers have developed a promising substitute using blood’s oxygen-carrying component, hemoglobin. The in vitro study, reported in ACS’ journal Biomacromolecules, found that the modified hemoglobin was an effective oxygen carrier and also scavenged for potentially damaging free radicals.

Fighting MRSA with new membrane-busting compound

ACS: Public health officials are increasingly concerned over methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bacteria have developed resistance to a number of treatments, even antibiotics of last resort in some cases. Now researchers report in ACS’ journal Bioconjugate Chemistry that a new class of compounds can treat MRSA skin infections in mice with no signs of acute toxicity, and no signs that the bacteria would develop resistance to them after many applications.

How rare sugars might help control blood glucose

ACS: In an era when the label “natural” hits a sweet spot with consumers, some uncommon sugars emerging on the market could live up to the connotation. Preliminary animal studies have suggested that allulose and other low-calorie, natural rare sugars could help regulate glucose levels. Now, researchers are investigating how they might exert such effects. They report their findings in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

How to measure potentially damaging free radicals in cigarette smoke

ACS: Smoking cigarettes can lead to illness and death. Free radicals, which are atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons, in inhaled smoke are thought to be partly responsible for making smokers sick. Now researchers report in ACS’ journal Chemical Research in Toxicology a method for measuring free radicals in cigarette smoke that could help improve our understanding of the relationship between these substances and health.

The search for obesity drugs targets hunger’s complex chemistry

ACS: Discoveries of hormones related to weight and appetite in the ‘90s helped spur a search for obesity treatments targeting those hormones— with disappointing results. Now scientists are taking a new tack that could finally yield promising treatments, according to a story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) that was produced in collaboration with the American Chemical Society’s open-access journal ACS Central Science. C&EN is the weekly newsmagazine of ACS.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New technology can detect tiny ovarian tumors

MIT:  Most ovarian cancer is diagnosed at such late stages that patients’ survival rates are poor. However, if the cancer is detected earlier, five-year survival rates can be greater than 90 percent. Now, MIT engineers have developed a far more sensitive way to reveal ovarian tumors: In tests in mice, they were able to detect tumors composed of nodules smaller than 2 millimeters in diameter. In humans, that could translate to tumor detection about five months earlier than is possible with existing blood tests, the researchers say.

Does Good Oral Health Increase Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?

AGA: A population-based cohort study of more than 20,000 people in Sweden associated poor oral health with reduced risk for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The article, in the April issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, reports that the protective effect increases with the severity of poor dental hygiene. Environmental factors, such as westernization and modernization, are thought to contribute to the increasing worldwide prevalence of IBD. Improved hygiene has reduced human exposures to microbes, which is believed to increase risk for autoimmune disorders such as IBD.

GIANT study finds rare, but influential, genetic changes related to height

Broad Institute: In the largest, deepest search to date, the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium has uncovered 83 new DNA changes that affect human height. These changes are uncommon or rare, but they have potent effects, with some of them adjusting height by more than 2 cm (almost 8/10 of an inch). The 700,000-plus-person study also found several genes pointing to previously unknown biological pathways involved in skeletal growth. Findings were published online by Nature on February 1.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Immunotherapy for Glioblastoma Well Tolerated; Survival Gains Observed

Duke: A phase one study of 11 patients with glioblastoma who received injections of an investigational vaccine therapy and an approved chemotherapy showed the combination to be well tolerated while also resulting in unexpectedly significant survival increases, researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute report. Patients treated with the study drug (dose-intensified temozolomide and vaccines) were continuously monitored for toxicity and adverse events. Study patients experienced known side effects with temozolomide, including nausea, lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia and fatigue. There were no treatment limiting adverse events and no adverse events related to the cellular portion of the vaccine. One patient developed a grade 3 vaccine-related allergic reaction to the GM-CSF component of the vaccine. The patient was able to continue vaccinations in which the GM-CSF was removed and had no subsequent adverse events.

Greater Exposure to Flame Retardants Might Be Associated with Thyroid Cancer

Duke: Higher exposure to chemicals used to reduce the flammability of furniture, carpets, electronics and other household items appears to be associated with papillary thyroid cancer, according to study conducted by the Duke Cancer Institute and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Reporting April 1 at the ENDO 2017 meeting in Orlando, the Duke research team found a significant association between higher levels of certain flame retardants in household dust and being a patient with papillary thyroid cancer, which is increasing at the fastest rate of any cancer in the United States.

Fracking: what impact on water?

Duke: Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but accidental spills of fracking wastewater may pose a threat to surface water in the region, according to a new study led by scientists at Duke University. “Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. ”However, we did find that spill water associated with fracked wells and their wastewater has an impact on the quality of streams in areas of intense shale gas development.”
“The bottom-line assessment,” he said, “is that groundwater is so far not being impacted, but surface water is more readily contaminated because of the frequency of spills.”

The world’s smallest pacemaker

Maryland: The University of Maryland Medical Center’s Stephen Shorofsky, MD, PhD, was one of the first doctors in Maryland to implant the world’s smallest pacemaker for patients with bradycardia. Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Micra® Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS) is a new type of heart device that provides patients with the most advanced pacing technology at one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker. Micra is the only leadless pacemaker approved for use in the U.S.

Mercury in Fish, Seafood May Be Linked to Increased ALS Risk

Dartmouth: There is an important association between eating fish and seafood with higher levels of mercury and being at a higher risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a preliminary study released this week. Results of the study will be shared during the 69th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which will be held in Boston April 22 to 28, 2017. “For most people, eating fish is part of a healthy diet,” said study author Elijah Stommel, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, a neurologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “But questions remain about the possible impact of mercury in fish.”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Allergies? Probiotic combination may curb your symptoms, new study finds

Florida: As we head into allergy season, you may feel less likely to grab a hanky and sneeze. That’s because new University of Florida research shows a probiotic combination might help reduce hay fever symptoms, if it’s taken during allergy season. Many published studies have shown a probiotic’s ability to regulate the body’s immune response to allergies, but not all of the probiotics show a benefit, UF researchers say. “Not all probiotics work for allergies. This one did,” said Jennifer Dennis, a doctoral student in the UF food science and human nutrition department in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and first author on the latest study. Scientists already know that the probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, sold as Kyo-Dophilus in stores, helps maintain digestive health and parts of the immune system.

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Ability to Interpret Facial Expressions

Arizona: After a rough night's sleep, your ability to recognize whether those around you are happy or sad could suffer, according to a study led by a University of Arizona psychologist. The research, published in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, found that study participants had a harder time identifying facial expressions of happiness or sadness when they were sleep deprived versus well-rested. The sleepy participants' ability to interpret facial expressions of other emotions — anger, fear, surprise and disgust — was not impaired, however. That's likely because we're wired to recognize those more primitive emotions in order to survive acute dangers, said lead researcher William D.S. Killgore, a UA professor of psychiatry, psychology and medical imaging.

Teaching happiness to men with HIV boosts their health

NorthWestern: When individuals recently diagnosed with HIV were coached to practice skills to help them experience positive emotions, the result was less HIV in their blood and lower antidepressant use, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. “Even in the midst of this stressful experience of testing positive for HIV, coaching people to feel happy, calm and satisfied — what we call positive affect — appears to influence important health outcomes,” said lead author Judith Moskowitz, professor of medical social sciences and director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Gum disease, tooth loss may increase postmenopausal women's risk of death

Buffalo: Gum disease and tooth loss may be associated with a higher risk of death in postmenopausal women but not increased cardiovascular disease risk, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the open access journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Loss of all natural teeth also was linked with an increased risk of death in postmenopausal women, according to the study led by UB researchers.

How can we use technology to support patients after bariatric surgery?

Kaiser Permanente: Bariatric surgery is a potentially life-changing procedure that can help ward off chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. But going through the surgery itself is only part of the journey. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight after surgery usually depends on adopting healthier eating and physical activity habits in the long term. We all know that’s easier said than done. But with the recent boom in mobile-health technologies such as activity trackers, lifestyle support for patients who’ve had bariatric surgery is moving in a whole new direction.

Video: Brain prints reveal children’s reading difficulties

A Binghamton neuroscientist and her team are developing a test to diagnose reading difficulties early on.

UK Physiologists Discover Molecular Mechanism for Stabilizing Inner Ear Cells, with Implications for Hearing Loss

Kentucky: Mechanosensory hair cells in the inner ear pick up the softest sounds, such as whispers and distant noises. Unlike other cells in the human body, these sensory cells are fragile and finite. At birth, the human ear contains approximately 15,000 of these cells. They do not regenerate or divide and, therefore are susceptible to permanent damage from exposure to loud sounds. Scientists believe understanding the molecular mechanisms that maintain the structure of these cells throughout the lifespan can provide insight into the fundamental causes of hearing loss and deafness.