Born shy, always shy? Temperamental differences may last throughout life

Whether a person avoids novelty or embraces it may depend in part on brain differences that have existed from infancy, new findings suggest. When shown pictures of unfamiliar faces, adults who were shy toddlers showed a relatively high level of activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala. Adults who were more outgoing toddlers showed less activity in this brain structure, which is related to emotion and novelty. The findings appear in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

AIDS vaccine induces HIV-specific immune response in chronic infection

A controversial vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been shown to stimulate a critical part of the HIV-specific immune response in chronically infected patients. The small study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) finds that a vaccine made from an inactivated form of the AIDS virus (Remune) induces the proliferation of CD4 cells ? also called T helper cells ? that specifically target HIV. Appearing in the June issue of the journal AIDS, the study is the first clear demonstration of the potential reconstitution of the immune response in chronic HIV infection. However, this pilot study was not designed to tell whether or not the vaccine would have any effect on the eventual course of the disease.

Getting through the matrix

The best cancer drugs in the world are not much good if they cannot get to tumor cells. That problem has been challenging cancer physicians and researchers for years because the physical structure of many tumors can prevent anticancer agents from reaching their targets. In a study appearing in the June issue of Nature Medicine, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) describe a new technique for assessing the permeability of tumors and a promising new way of improving tumors’ accessibility to drugs.

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen both good for high-altitude headaches

In a study conducted near the Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) resident physician and his colleagues have found that acetaminophen is as effective as ibuprofen in treating high-altitude headache. Because acetaminophen has fewer side effects than medications like ibuprofen, this finding suggests that acetaminophen may be the best choice for those who experience headaches when they travel to altitudes of more than 2,000 meters (about 6,600 feet). The report appears in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

New imaging method accurately detects stroke

Diffusion-weighted MR imaging is an accurate way to detect whether a patient has had a stroke–even 24 hours after the patient’s initial symptoms began, a new study shows. The study, the largest of its kind, found that diffusion-weighted MR imaging was about 90 percent accurate in diagnosing stroke, says Mark Mullins, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Mullins was the lead author of the study. Diffusion-weighted MR imaging was 91% accurate if the test was done 0-6 hours after the patient first began having symptoms; accuracy was 89% at 6-12 hours, then 90% at 12-24 hours, says Dr. Mullins.

Study identifies changes in the eyes of Alzheimer's sufferers

A research team led by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has discovered that amyloid-beta (A-beta), the protein that forms plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, can also be detected in the lens of the human eye. The investigators were able to identify A-beta in lens samples from elderly individuals with and without the disorder; however, an unusual pattern of amyloid deposits was found only on the lenses of Alzheimer’s patients.

Minimally invasive treatment successfully destroys kidney tumors

A minimally invasive, experimental treatment is proving successful in removing small kidney tumors from appropriate patients, report researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). In a study in the February 2003 issue of Radiology, the MGH team describes how a technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) destroyed all renal cell carcinoma (RCC) tumors less than 3 cm in size and some larger tumors, depending on their location. The most common form of kidney cancer, RCC will be diagnosed in almost 32,000 Americans this year and is most frequently treated with surgical removal through either an open or laparoscopic procedure.

Drug treatment for ADHD sharply cuts risk for future substance abuse

An analysis of all available studies that examine the possible impact of stimulant treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on future substance abuse supports the safety of stimulant treatment. Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, the researchers found that medication treatment for children with ADHD resulted in an almost two-fold reduction in the risk of future substance abuse. “We know that untreated individuals with ADHD are at a significantly increased risk for substance abuse. And we understand why parents often ask whether stimulant medications might lead to future substance abuse among their children,” says Timothy Wilens, MD, MGH director of Substance Abuse Services in Pediatric Psychopharmacology, the paper’s lead author. “Now we can reassure parents and other practitioners that treating ADHD actually protects children against alcohol and drug abuse as well as other future problems.”

Infection by closely related HIV strains possible

A report of an individual infected with a second strain of HIV despite effective drug treatment following the first infection has researchers concerned. “For the first time, we’ve shown it is possible for an individual to become infected with two closely related strains of HIV,” says Bruce D. Walker, M.D., a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The findings underscore the challenges vaccine developers face in creating a broadly effective vaccine against HIV. The first HIV vaccines may not prevent infection altogether, but rather may prevent HIV from causing disease by limiting the virus’ ability to reproduce, explains Dr. Walker. This case shows that a hypothetical vaccine against one strain of HIV may not necessarily protect the vaccinee against other, closely related strains.

Study Identifies Gene That Prevents Nerve Cell Death

Many neurological diseases occur when specific groups of neurons die because of nerve damage, toxins, inflammation, or other factors. A new study suggests that activity of a single gene can stop neurons from dying regardless of what triggers this process. The findings could lead to new ways of treating neurodegenerative diseases.