Drug Averts Parkinson’s in Fruit Flies, New Approaches Possible in Humans

Scientists have averted the onset of neurodegenerative disease in fruit flies by administering medication to flies genetically predisposed to a disorder akin to Parkinson’s disease. The result suggests a new approach to the treatment of human disorders including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common human neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by tremors, postural rigidity and progressive deterioration of dopaminergic neurons in specific areas of the brain. Despite the evolutionary gulf separating humans and fruit flies, neurotoxicity unfolds in a similar manner in both species.

Quick, cheap blood test predicts chance of surviving heart attack

A rapid and inexpensive blood test that measures levels of a hormone predicted the long-term health of patients with heart attack and chest pain, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. This hormone ? B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) ? is elevated when the heart is damaged. A fragment of this hormone called the N-terminal fragment (N-BNP), can provide a clearer picture of a patient’s likelihood of survival, more so than with current prognostic methods.

Pre-term infants slower at processing information

Although individuals vary widely, on average, pre-term infants are markedly slower at processing information — including understanding what they see — than full-term infants. New research shows this deficit in processing speed is already present in the first year of life and the gap in performance does not narrow with age. The research is published in the November issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Obese Patients Seeking Weight-Loss Surgery Often Mentally Ill

Most patients seeking radical gastric bypass surgery suffer from some form of mental health problem and should first be evaluated by a mental health worker, according to a study completed by psychologists and surgeons at the Center for Weight Reduction at Montefiore Medical Center. “There is a high degree of psychopathology in this population, which could influence their ability to make informed consent and/or their reaction to the surgery and subsequent weight loss,” said the authors in an article published in the professional journal Obesity Surgery. The psychological aspect of obesity surgery is a little talked about topic, but is of increasing relevance today as the number of radical surgeries for obesity increases.

Flaxseed-Rich Diet Blocks Prostate Cancer Growth, Development in Mice

A diet rich in flaxseed seems to reduce the size, aggressiveness and severity of tumors in mice that have been genetically engineered to develop prostate cancer, according to new research from Duke University Medical Center. And in 3 percent of the mice, the flaxseed diet kept them from getting the disease at all. “The amount of flaxseed given to each mouse was 5 percent of its total food intake, which would be a very difficult amount for humans to eat,” said a lead researcher. “[B]ut it does signal that we are on the right track and need to continue research in this area.”

MIT, HP team on massive digital archive

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology today announced the worldwide launch of DSpace, a massive digital repository system which will capture, store, distribute and preserve the intellectual output of MIT’s faculty and research staff. Developed jointly by the MIT Libraries and the Hewlett-Packard Co., DSpace will transform how MIT distributes and archives the results of its research, and will serve as a model for other universities and institutions with similar needs.

High-carb supplement helps with weight loss, MIT researchers say

MIT researchers have reported that a high-carbohydrate dietary supplement can help patients who experience weight gain while taking antidepressants. Even though the high-carbohydrate regimen altered serotonin levels, it did not alter the antidepressants’ effectiveness. The regimen, which includes a high-carbohydrate drink developed at MIT based on research conducted here, also helped non-medicated obese individuals, the researchers reported. All participants lost between 12 and 26 pounds during the 12-week study. Patients taking psychotropic medications such as antidepressants that increase the activity of serotonin in the brain sometimes gain weight by overeating sweet and starchy foods.

Researchers Develop Chemical Switch to Control Biomolecular Motor

Researchers have created a tiny motor that they can turn on and off at will, bringing scientists one step closer to using such devices to repair cellular damage, manufacture medicines and attack cancer cells. As reported in this month’s Nature Materials, the researchers have developed a chemical switch that gives them control over a biomolecular motor just 11 nanometers, or 11 billionths of a meter, in size ? hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Physicians test hypothermia for heart attacks

A national study is underway to research the use of mild, controlled hypothermia to limit heart damage during a heart attack. A heart attack is caused when a heart artery is suddenly blocked, restricting the blood flow to the heart muscle and causing it to die. The ICE-IT study will induce hypothermia-a process that lowers body temperature-on individuals having a first heart attack. As the body temperature decreases, so does the metabolism rate, reducing the amount of blood the heart muscle needs to survive. The cooling process begins by inserting a catheter into a large vein in a patient’s leg and directing it through the vein to just below the heart. The catheter tip contains a device that rapidly cools the blood to around 92 degrees, which is then circulated throughout the body. Another catheter is inserted to open the blocked artery using a stent, balloon or an angiojet. The lowered temperature is maintained for about six hours. Anti-shivering medications are given to patients during the cooling process to disguise the sensation of coldness and to help them remain calm. Afterwards, the patient’s body is warmed for 30 minutes.

Light therapy may help treat advanced lung cancer

Surgeons in Philadelphia say they are finding success by combining light-based cancer therapy with surgery to treat patients with advanced lung cancer that has spread within the chest. While the number of patients treated to date is small, many patients are living three to four times longer than did those patients who did not receive the therapy. In photodynamic therapy (PDT), a nontoxic photosensitizing agent, photofrin, is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. These compounds tend to concentrate more in cancer cells than in normal cells. When the compound is exposed to a certain wavelength of light, it absorbs the light energy and produces a form of oxygen that kills the cells. The damage occurs only where the light is shined. In the study, each patient is given chemotherapy until the cancer stops responding, meaning the disease begins to grow again. If the cancer has not spread beyond the chest, the patient then receives photofrin 24 hours prior to surgery to remove the tumor. During surgery, he or she receives an appropriate dose of light therapy. Of the 16 patients evaluated to date, at least one-half have lived more than 23 months, which is between three and four times the usual time.

Radioactive microspheres help knock out liver tumors

For once, clogged arteries are a good thing.Physicians treating deadly liver tumors are finding success by injecting patients with radioactive microspheres that get trapped in the web of small blood vessels feeding a tumor and zap the cancerous cells. “The liver doesn’t tolerate external beam radiation in sufficient doses to affect tumor without damaging the remaining good liver,” said one physician researcher working on the treatment. “These spheres emit radiation for a short distance, less than a centimeter. If you can cluster radiation right around the tumor, the radiation exposure at the tumor site compared to normal liver is favorable.”

Schizophrenia Drugs Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack

As is people with schizophrenia didn’t have enough to worry about a new study finds that schizophrenic patients who take antipsychotic drugs are more likely to have experienced cardiac arrest or ventricular arrhythmia than non-schizophrenic patients. While previous research has linked several of these drugs to irregular electrocardiogram results, the researchers used billing data to uncover a link between the drugs and cardiac arrest.