Engineered Proteins Will Lead to ‘Synthetic Biology’

Biochemists have developed a computational method to design proteins that can specifically detect a wide array of chemicals from TNT to brain chemicals involved in neurological disorders. In a paper in the May 8, 2003, issue of the journal Nature, they demonstrate the breadth of their design method, and also that such sensor proteins can be re-incorporated into cells to activate cellular signaling and genetic pathways.

Diet, Exercise Together Effective in Controlling High Blood Pressure

New research suggests that an overhaul of dietary and fitness habits to help prevent or control high blood pressure is feasible with proper coaching, contrary to the theory that too many changes would be overwhelming and ineffective for most people. The best results in the study were achieved when weight loss, salt restriction and exercise were paired with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products.

Growing Human Skin in Laboratory Can Prematurely Age Cells

Children who receive laboratory-expanded sheets of their own skin to cover severe burns are saved from certain death, but their new skin can have the cellular age of an 80 year old, according to a study at Duke University Medical Center. The process of growing small patches of human skin into larger sheets, called tissue engineering, makes cells divide so many times that the skin becomes prematurely aged at a cellular level.

Antiepileptic Drug Useful for Weight Loss in Obese Adults

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have concluded, in a preliminary study published today, that the drug zonisamide (trade name Zonegran), an anticonvulsant used to treat some types of epileptic seizures, has appetite-reducing effects that could eventually offer hope to thousands of people as an effective therapy for weight loss.

Antiepileptic Drug Useful for Weight Loss in Obese Adults

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have concluded, in a preliminary study published today, that the drug zonisamide (trade name Zonegran), an anticonvulsant used to treat some types of epileptic seizures, has appetite-reducing effects that could eventually offer hope to thousands of people as an effective therapy for weight loss.

Genetic Risk Factor for Parkinson's Disease Discovered

Inherited variations in proteins that produce energy for the body may provide protection from developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study by scientists at Duke University Medical Center. Furthermore, the inherited gene variations seem particularly to protect white women, which may help explain why Parkinson’s disease is seen more often in men.

Chemical Keeps Pancreatic Islet Cells Healthier During Freezing

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have shown that a novel chemical permits greater amount of insulin-producing islet cells to survive freezing intact. Additionally, the researchers reported, these cells appear to be better able to secrete insulin in response to glucose after they are thawed, in contrast to currently available techniques. The discovery could represent an important step forward in making islet cell transplants a viable treatment option for patients with diabetes, they said.

Bypass Surgery Better for Patients Over 70

When compared to angioplasty or treatment with drugs, coronary artery bypass surgery was better at relieving chest pain (angina) and improving functional abilities at one year for elderly patients, according to Duke University Medical Center cardiologists.

Mechanical Support Induces Genetic Changes in Failing Hearts

Using new DNA microarray technology, researchers have found significant changes in the expression pattern of hundreds of genes in heart muscle cells after mechanical pumps are used to take over from failing hearts. This finding represents a first step, they say, in a line of research that could help predict how heart failure patients will respond when supported by a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). These devices are employed when the heart’s left ventricle — the chamber of the heart that pumps blood throughout the body — is too weak to pump enough blood to nourish the body’s tissues. They have been used as successful short-term “bridges to heart transplant” and are increasingly being considered as long-term heart failure destination therapy, also known as “bridge to recovery.”

Study Says Not Enough Time for Preventive Care

Primary care physicians do not have the time to offer needed preventive health care to their patients, says a new Duke University Medical Center study. According to the study published in the April 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, providing the recommended preventive maintenance for patients would take an estimated 7.4 hours out of a primary care physician’s day, leaving approximately 30 minutes for critical and chronic disease care.

Common Heart Surgery Drug Potentially Dangerous

Protamine, a drug used for more than 40 years immediately after coronary artery bypass surgery to return thinned blood to its normal state, has been shown to have more potential negative side effects than previously appreciated, according to researchers. Although they found that small blood pressure changes that often occur with protamine?s use are associated with increased mortality, they do not advocate any change in the clinical use of the drug. However, they do emphasize that their findings should spur development of alternatives for protamine.

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