Researchers discover new immune system molecule that can help or harm health

Researchers have identified a new member of the important B7 family of immune system “co-stimulators.” Co-stimulators are molecules that are capable of turning the immune system on or off — and in the process, profoundly affecting human health. Mayo Clinic researchers named this newest molecule B7-H4. It inhibits the action of T cells, the immune system warriors whose basic job is to attack invaders. Turning off T cells helps transplant patients accept foreign organs. But turning off T cells harms cancer patients — their tumors continue to grow without defensive attacks by T cells. The Mayo Clinic report appears in the June 17 issue of Immunity.

Survival rates of anorexia sufferers, non-sufferers differ little

A long-term study of patients in Rochester, Minn., with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa found that their survival rates did not differ from the expected survival rates of others of the same age and sex. The results, published in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, add to the knowledge of anorexia nervosa and point to other areas that need greater study from researchers. “Although our data suggest that overall mortality is not increased among community patients with anorexia nervosa in general, these findings should not lead to complacency in clinical practice because deaths do occur,” says L. Joseph Melton, III, M.D., Mayo Clinic epidemiologist and an author of the report.

Loss of Mental, Functional Abilities Not Guaranteed for Those in 90s

A new Mayo Clinic study shows that the fears of many related to living into one’s 90s and beyond — getting lost in your own neighborhood; losing the ability to take care of financial affairs; having a driver’s license revoked; ending up in a nursing home — are in many cases unfounded. This research, to be published in the Feb. 11 issue of Neurology, demonstrates that for many age 90 and above, memory can be strikingly sharp even up to one century of age.

One in Four have Precursor to Heart Failure

More than one-fourth of adults over age 45 have abnormalities in the way their heart fills with blood and are at significantly increased risk for premature death, according to results of a study of 2,042 randomly selected residents of Olmsted County, Minn. The study is published in the Jan. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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