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They are proteins that cut other proteins, enabling a wide range of essential functions such as wound healing, blood clotting and formation of muscle and nerve cells. But serine proteases also can cut a path of destruction, contributing to the plaques involved in heart disease and Alzheimer's and to extensive birth defects as well when something goes awry. Understanding this sort of physiological crescendo called a protease cascade is a goal of Dr. Ellen K. LeMosy, developmental biologist at the Medical College of Georgia.
A Medical College of Georgia pilot study using meditation to help lower blood pressure in teens was so successful that the project has been extended to five high schools and a middle school. Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute with over 30 years of experience in teaching and applying meditation techniques, conducted the pilot five years ago, teaching meditation to students with high-normal blood pressure at a Richmond County high school. The results, published in a 1999 edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, cited lower blood pressure and other improvements among participants. The success spurred the GPI to expand the project to include 156 high school students and 80 middle school students in Richmond County. The study is funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.
A compound that enables squirrels to hibernate may one day help minimize brain damage that results from stroke. In an animal model for stroke, delta opioid peptide reduced by as much as 75 percent the damage to the brain's striatum, the deeper region of the brain and a major target for strokes, according to researchers. In fact, evidence suggests that the compound, which puts cells in a temporary state of suspended animation, may help protect brain cells from the ravages of Parkinson's disease as well.