Biomedical research and the development of powerful new diagnostic tools will be hobbled in the U.S. if the government fails to adequately fund mathematics, physics and engineering research, major drivers, of progress in biology, according to the executive director of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, headquartered at UCSF. Physics underlies powerful medical imaging diagnostics such as MRI and CAT capabilities, while mathematical tools are essential to tease apart complex signaling networks active in nearly all essential cell processes, said Marvin Cassman, PhD. “If we don’t adequately support physics, engineering and mathematics, we put the brakes on medically-related progress as surely as we slow advances in math and physics,” he said.
Researchers have discovered that molecules in aging bones are unable to remain in step with one another during the complex molecular dance that results in healthy bones. The missteps by aging cells responsible for bone formation trigger cells that tear down bone. The result is the thinning of the bones characteristic of osteoporosis, according to preliminary research by Bernard Halloran, PhD, of the Laboratory for Human Aging and Bone Research at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
Another menopausal myth is challenged: Women with existing coronary disease do not realize improvement in their cognitive function as a result of taking the most common form of hormone replacement therapy, a UCSF study has found. Investigators followed more than 1000 women from ten US test sites for four years. Half took a placebo; the other half took hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although other, smaller studies have shown an improvement, in the UCSF study the women who received HRT performed no better on standard tests of cognitive function than those who received placebo.
No cases of HIV transmission through unprotected receptive oral sex were found by researchers at UCSF’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies in a new study. The study looked at men who have sex with men and who exclusively practice oral sex as the receptive partner. “HIV infection through receptive oral sex is a very rare event?statistically our study showed a probability of zero?and is rarer than HIV infection through receptive anal intercourse using a condom,” said the study’s lead author Kimberly Page Shafer, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at UCSF’s CAPS. The findings are being published in the November 22, 2002 issue of AIDS.
By experimentally switching genes off or on at specific stages in an animal’s lifecycle, California scientists have discovered that vigor and lifespan can be significantly extended with no side effects. Many researchers believe that increasing lifespan will dampen reproduction. But the new study of the tiny roundworm commonly known as C. elegans shows that silencing a key gene only in adulthood increases longevity with no effect on reproduction.
Researchers say they’ve developed a new test for prions that improves the accuracy and speed with which the malformed and infectious proteins can be detected. Prions cause neurodegenerative diseases in sheep, deer and elk, plus Mad Cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans.