FDA approves psoriasis drug

Alefacept, a specially designed molecule that blocks a specific immune-system reaction involved in the painful skin condition psoriasis, was approved for marketing today under the name Amevive. Biogen, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., will market the drug. Alefacept traces its roots to research done at the U-M in the mid-1990s by a team led by former dermatology faculty member Kevin D. Cooper, M.D. The University and Biogen share the patent on the engineered molecule with Cooper, who is now chair of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Study: 15 percent of pregnant women drink alcohol

Despite widespread warnings about the potential risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, fifteen percent of pregnant women in a newly published study said they had drunk alcohol at least once during their pregnancies. And although most of those women reported on an anonymous survey that they’d had less than one drink a week, some acknowledged drinking more than that on a regular basis, or said they’d had at least one binge of five or more drinks at once.

Cocaine harms brain’s ‘pleasure center’

New research results strongly suggest that cocaine bites the hand that feeds it, in essence, by harming or even killing the very brain cells that trigger the “high” that cocaine users feel. This most comprehensive description yet of cocaine-induced damage to key cells in the human brain’s dopamine “pleasure center” may help explain many aspects of cocaine addiction, and perhaps aid the development of anti-addiction drugs. It also could help scientists understand other disorders involving the same brain cells, including depression.

Firefly molecule could quickly shed light on how well new drugs work

The process that makes fireflies glow bright in the summer night can also shed light on how well new medicines work, showing immediately whether the drugs are effective at killing cells or causing other effects. That’s the conclusion of a team of scientists who report that they have inserted the gene for a firefly’s glow-producing molecule into mice with cancer, and kept it from producing its telltale beacon of light until the cells started to die in response to cancer treatment.

Study: ER could be front line for stroke prevention

The emergency room may be a prime location for stroke prevention, as well as stroke treatment, a new study finds. That’s because patients with a high stroke risk due to heart rhythm problems are likely to turn up at the ER for symptoms of their irregular heartbeat, giving doctors a chance to make sure they’re on the best drugs to prevent a stroke.

Drug significantly improves pain in fibromyalgia patients

A drug called pregabalin has been shown to be an effective and safe treatment for pain in patients with fibromyalgia, according to study data being presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. The drug, Pregabalin, also was shown to improve sleep and fatigue levels, the data demonstrate. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain that is frequently associated with fatigue and sleep disturbances. It is estimated to affect two percent of the population, or 5.6 million Americans, and occurs most frequently in women.

Exercise, talk therapy may help relieve Gulf War veterans’ illness

Regular exercise and a form of group talk therapy can alleviate some symptoms commonly associated with Gulf War veterans’ illnesses, according to newly released results of a study involving veterans who report such symptoms. Fatigue, distress, mental health, and mental ability all improved after three months of low-impact exercise, weekly group sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or both together. The gains were significantly greater than those made by veterans who were given usual care. Physical function improved more in those who had CBT than in those who didn’t.

Women’s stroke symptoms differ from men’s

A new study documents for the first time a significant difference in the way women and men describe their symptoms while they’re having a stroke. And that difference may be affecting how women receive emergency stroke treatment. On the whole, the study found, women were 62 percent more likely than men to say they were feeling sensations that aren’t on the list of “traditional” stroke symptoms. Because emergency responders and emergency room doctors often go by patients’ descriptions and the traditional symptom list when trying to diagnose and treat a suspected stroke, women’s symptoms may be overlooked during the precious hours when stroke therapies work best.