Protein researchers closing in on the mystery of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe disease for which there is still no effective medical treatment. In an attempt to understand exactly what happens in the brain of schizophrenic people, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have analysed proteins in the brains of rats that have been given hallucinogenic drugs. This may pave the way for new and better medicines.Seven per cent of the adult population suffer from schizophrenia, and although scientists have tried for centuries to understand the disease, they still do not know what causes the disease or which physiological changes it causes in the body. Doctors cannot make the diagnosis by looking for specific physiological changes in the patient’s blood or tissue, but have to diagnose from behavioral symptoms.In an attempt to find the physiological signature of schizophrenia, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have conducted tests on rats, and they now believe that the signature lies in some specific, measurable proteins. Knowing these proteins and comparing their behavior to proteins in the brains of not-schizophrenic people may make it possible to develop more effective drugs.It is extremely difficult to study brain activity in schizophrenic people, which is why researchers often use animal models in their strive to understand the mysteries of the schizophrenic brain. Rat brains resemble human brains in so many ways that studying them makes sense if one wants to learn more about the human brain.Schizophrenic symptoms in ratsThe strong hallucinogenic drug phenocyclidine (PCP), also known as “angel’s dust,” provides a range of symptoms in people which are very similar to schizophrenia.”When we give PCP to rats, the rats become valuable study objects for schizophrenia researchers,” explains Ole Nrregaard Jensen, professor and head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.Along with Pawel Palmowski, Adelina Rogowska-Wrzesinska and others, he is the author of a scientific paper about the discovery, published in the international Journal of Proteome Research.Among the symptoms and reactions that can be observed in both humans and rats are changes in movement and reduced cognitive functions such as impaired memory, attention and learning ability.”Scientists have studied PCP rats for decades, but until now no one really knew what was going on in the rat brains at the molecular level. We now present what we believe to be the largest proteomics data set to date,” says Ole Nrregaard Jensen.PCP is absorbed very quickly by the brain, and it only stays in the brain for a few hours. Therefore, it was important for researchers to examine the rats’ brain cells soon after the rats were injected with the hallucinogenic drug.”We could see changes in the proteins in the brain already after 15 minutes. And after 240 minutes, it was almost over,” says Ole Nrregaard Jensen.The University of Southern Denmark holds some of the world’s most advanced equipment for studying proteins, and Ole Nrregaard Jensen and his colleagues used the university’s so-called mass spectrometres for their protein studies.352 proteins cause brain changes”We found 2604 proteins, and in 352 of them, we saw changes that can be associated with the PCP injections. These 352 proteins will be extremely interesting to study in closer detail to see if they also alter in people with schizophrenia — and if that’s the case, it will of course be interesting to try to develop a drug that can prevent the protein changes that lead to schizophrenia,” says Ole Nrregaard Jensen about the discovery and the work that now lies ahead.The 352 proteins in rat brains responded immediately when the animals were exposed to PCP. …

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Canal between ears helps alligators pinpoint sound

By reptile standards, alligators are positively chatty. They are the most vocal of the non-avian reptiles and are known to be able to pinpoint the source of sounds with accuracy. But it wasn’t clear exactly how they did it because they lack external auditory structures.In a new study, an international team of biologists shows that the alligator’s ear is strongly directional because of large, air-filled channels connecting the two middle ears. This configuration is similar in birds, which have an interaural canal that increases directionality.”Mammals usually have large moveable ears, but alligators do not, so they have solved the problems of sound localization a little differently. This may also be the solution used by the alligator’s dinosaur relatives,” said Hilary Bierman, a biology lecturer at the University of Maryland.The study, which was led by Bierman and UMD Biology Professor Catherine Carr, was published online in the Journal of Experimental Biology on March 26, 2014. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Danish National Science Foundation and Carlsberg Foundation.The UMD biologists — along with researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Colorado Medical School and University of Southern Denmark — collected anatomical, biophysical and electrophysiological measurements of alligators to investigate the mechanisms alligators use to locate sounds.”Different vertebrate lineages have evolved external and/or internal anatomical adaptations to enhance these auditory cues, such as pinnae and interaural canals,” said Bierman.First, the team tested how sound travelled around an alligator’s head to investigate whether the animal somehow channels sound, listening for tiny time and volume differences in the sound’s arrival at the two ears to help locate the origin. But the team found no evidence that the animal’s body alters sound transmission sufficiently for the animal to be able to detect the difference. And when the team measured alligators’ brainstem responses to sounds, they were too fast for the animals to sense these small time differences.Next, the team looked for internal structures in the alligators’ heads that might propagate sound between the two eardrums. Viewing slices through the heads of young alligators, the team could clearly see two channels linking the two middle ears that could transmit sound between the two eardrums.Sound reaches both sides of the eardrum — travelling externally to reach the outer side and through head structures to the internal side — to amplify the vibration at some frequencies when the head is aligned with the sound. This maximizes the pressure differences on the two sides of the eardrum, magnifying the time difference between the sound arriving at the ear drum via two different paths to allow the animal to pinpoint the source. …

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Ancient sea creatures filtered food like modern whales

Ancient, giant marine animals used bizarre facial appendages to filter food from the ocean, according to new fossils discovered in northern Greenland. The new study, led by the University of Bristol and published today in Nature, describes how the strange species, called Tamisiocaris, used these huge, specialized appendages to filter plankton, similar to the way modern blue whales feed today.The animals lived 520 million years ago during the Early Cambrian, a period known as the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ in which all the major animal groups and complex ecosystems suddenly appeared. Tamisiocaris belongs to a group of animals called anomalocarids, a type of early arthropod that included the largest and some of the most iconic animals of the Cambrian period. They swam using flaps down either side of the body and had large appendages in front of their mouths that they most likely used to capture larger prey, such as trilobites.However, the newly discovered fossils show that those predators also evolved into suspension feeders, their grasping appendages morphing into a filtering apparatus that could be swept like a net through the water, trapping small crustaceans and other organisms as small as half a millimetre in size.The evolutionary trend that led from large, apex predators to gentle, suspension-feeding giants during the highly productive Cambrian period is one that has also taken place several other times throughout Earth’s history, according to lead author Dr Jakob Vinther, a lecturer in macroevolution at the University of Bristol.Dr Vinther said: “These primitive arthropods were, ecologically speaking, the sharks and whales of the Cambrian era. In both sharks and whales, some species evolved into suspension feeders and became gigantic, slow-moving animals that in turn fed on the smallest animals in the water.”In order to fully understand how the Tamisiocaris might have fed, the researchers created a 3D computer animation of the feeding appendage to explore the range of movements it could have made.”Tamisiocaris would have been a sweep net feeder, collecting particles in the fine mesh formed when it curled its appendage up against its mouth,” said Dr Martin Stein of the University of Copenhagen, who created the computer animation. “This is a rare instance when you can actually say something concrete about the feeding ecology of these types of ancient creatures with some confidence.”The discovery also helps highlight just how productive the Cambrian period was, showing how vastly different species of anomalocaridids evolved at that time, and provides further insight into the ecosystems that existed hundreds of millions of years ago.”The fact that large, free-swimming suspension feeders roamed the oceans tells us a lot about the ecosystem,” Dr Vinther said. “Feeding on the smallest particles by filtering them out of the water while actively swimming around requires a lot of energy — and therefore lots of food.”Tamisiocaris is one of many recent discoveries of remarkably diverse anomalocarids found in rocks aged 520 to 480 million years old. “We once thought that anomalocarids were a weird, failed experiment,” said co-author Dr Nicholas Longrich at the University of Bath. “Now we’re finding that they pulled off a major evolutionary explosion, doing everything from acting as top predators to feeding on tiny plankton.”The Tamisiocaris fossils were discovered during a series of recent expeditions led by co-author David Harper, a professor at Durham University. “The expeditions have unearthed a real treasure trove of new fossils in one of the remotest parts of the planet, and there are many new fossil animals still waiting to be described,” he said. …

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Animals losing migratory routes? Devasting consequences of scarcity of ‘knowledgeable elders’

Small changes in a population may lead to dramatic consequences, like the disappearance of the migratory route of a species. A study carried out in collaboration with the SISSA has created a model of the behaviour of a group of individuals on the move (like a school of fish, a herd of sheep or a flock of birds, etc.) which, by changing a few simple parameters, reproduces the collective behaviour patterns observed in the wild. The model shows that small quantitative changes in the number of knowledgeable individuals and availability of food can lead to radical qualitative changes in the group’s behaviour.Until the ’50s, bluefin tuna fishing was a thriving industry in Norway, second only to sardine fishing. Every year, bluefin tuna used to migrate from the eastern Mediterranean up to the Norwegian coasts. Suddenly, however, over no more than 4-5 years, the tuna never went back to Norway. In an attempt to solve this problem, Giancarlo De Luca from SISSA (the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste) together with an international team of researchers (from the Centre for Theoretical Physics — ICTP — of Trieste and the Technical University of Denmark) started to devise a model based on an “adaptive stochastic network.” The physicists wanted to simulate, simplifying it, the collective behaviour of animal groups. Their findings, published in the journal Interface, show that the number of “informed individuals” in a group, sociality and the strength of the decision of the informed individuals are “critical” variables, such that even minimal fluctuations in these variables can result in catastrophic changes to the system.”We started out by taking inspiration from the phenomenon that affected the bluefin tuna, but in actual fact we then developed a general model that can be applied to many situations of groups “on the move,” explains De Luca.The collective behaviour of a group can be treated as an “emerging property,” that is, the result of the self-organization of each individual’s behaviour. “The majority of individuals in a group may not possess adequate knowledge, for example, about where to find rich feeding grounds” explains De Luca. “However, for the group to function, it is enough that only a minority of individuals possess that information. The others, the ones who don’t, will obey simple social rules, for example by following their neighbours.”The tendency to comply with the norm, the number of knowledgeable individuals and the determination with which they follow their preferred route (which the researchers interpreted as being directly related to the appeal, or abundance, of the resource) are critical variables. …

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Heart attack patients return to work later, retire earlier if treatment is delayed

Oct. 12, 2013 — System delay in treating patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) postpones their return to work and increases early retirement, according to research presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 by Kristina Laut, PhD student from Aarhus, Denmark.The Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 is the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association (ACCA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and is held 12-14 October in Madrid, Spain.Ms Laut said: “System delay, which is time from emergency medical service call to reperfusion with primary angioplasty, has been associated with increased mortality and heart failure after STEMI. The 2012 ESC STEMI guidelines1 highlight system delay as a performance measure of quality of care.”She added: “Approximately 45% of patients admitted with STEMI are of working age but until now it was not known whether system delay impacts on timing of return to work and retirement. We decided to investigate this association because of the heavy burden to society with loss of production.”The study investigated whether system delay was associated with the duration of absence from work or time to retirement in STEMI patients treated with primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI).This population-based cohort study included 4,061 patients under 67 years of age admitted with STEMI between 1 January 1999 and 1 December 2011 and treated with PPCI. The Danish National Register on Public Transfer Payments provided data on work outcomes. Only patients who were full- or part-time employed three weeks before their STEMI admission were included. Cut-off points of 4 and 8 years were used to ensure there were 10% of patients remaining for each of the analyses.After 4 years of follow up, 91% of the study population had returned to work. After 8 years of follow up, 29% had retired. After adjusting for confounding factors, system delay greater than 120 minutes was associated with postponed return to work (Sub Hazard Ratio=0.86; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]=0.81-0.92) and earlier retirement from work (Hazard Ratio=1.21; 95% CI=1.08-1.36).Ms Laut said: “We found that a large proportion of STEMI patients did return to the labour market within 4 years but 14% came back to work later because of a prolonged system delay. We also discovered that after 8 years, people with a long system delay had a 21% increase in retirement rate.”She added: “The association between increased system delay and reduced work resumption and earlier retirement exists but we need more studies to find out why. …

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Hottest days in some parts of Europe have warmed four times more than the global average

Sep. 11, 2013 — Some of the hottest days and coldest nights in parts of Europe have warmed more than four times the global average change since 1950, according to a new paper by researchers from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Warwick, which is published today (11 September 2013) in the journal Environmental Research Letters.The researchers translated observations of weather into observations of climate change using a gridded dataset of observations stretching back to 1950. The hottest 5 per cent of days in summer have warmed fastest in a band from southern England and northern France to Denmark. By contrast, the average and slightly hotter than average days have warmed most in regions further south in France and Germany. In eastern Spain and central Italy there has been broad warming across all types of days, but in most places those days which are cooler than average have not warmed so much.The paper points out that some locations and temperature thresholds have seen little change since 1950. The authors suggest that the results highlight the scale of the difference between global change and the local climate changes felt by individuals.Dr. David Stainforth, the lead author on the paper, said: “Climate is fundamentally the distributions of weather. As climate changes, the distributions change. But they don’t just shift, they change shape. How they change shape depends on where you are. …

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Is bigger really better when it comes to size of labor wards?

Sep. 9, 2013 — New research reveals that large labor wards — those handling 3,000 to 3,999 deliveries annually — have better overall approval rates compared to small, intermediate or very large obstetric units. The study, appearing in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggests that greater access to in-house obstetricians and auxiliary specialists contributes to the lower obstetric injury claims from patients at large labor wards in Denmark.Nearly one million children were born in Denmark over a 15-year period, with a noted downward trend from 69,000 births in 1995 to 63,440 in 2009. While obstetric injuries are rare, they can be severe or fatal when they do occur. During the same time period, the Danish Patient Insurance Association (DPIA) provided compensation of nearly 300 million Danish kroner (40 million €; $53 million U.S.) for approved obstetric injury cases.For the present study, researchers reviewed DPIA obstetric claims with 1,326 included in the analysis. Financial compensation from DPIA is granted if one or more of the following conditions are met:1. If an experienced specialist in the field in question would have acted differently during examination or treatment thereby avoiding the injury — the “specialist rule,”2. if the injury is caused by defects in, or malfunction of the technical equipment used in association with investigations or treatment,3. if the injury might have been avoided using another available treatment, and this was considered to be equally safe and potentially to offer the same benefits,4. if the injury encountered is serious and more extensive than the patient should be expected to endure.The claims were categorized based on size of the labor unit with small units performing less than 1,000; intermediate at 1,000 to 2,999; large at 3,000 to 3,999; and very large wards with greater than 4,000 deliveries per year.Analysis shows that the overall approval rate for submitted obstetric claims was nearly 40%. …

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Migraine may permanently change brain structure

Aug. 28, 2013 — Migraine may have long-lasting effects on the brain’s structure, according to a study published in the August 28, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.”Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain,” said study author Messoud Ashina, MD, PhD, with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”The study found that migraine raised the risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities and altered brain volume compared to people without the disorder. The association was even stronger in those with migraine with aura.For the meta-analysis, researchers reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to see whether people who experienced migraine or migraine with aura had an increased risk of brain lesions, silent abnormalities or brain volume changes on MRI brain scans compared to those without the conditions.The results showed that migraine with aura increased the risk of white matter brain lesions by 68 percent and migraine with no aura increased the risk by 34 percent, compared to those without migraine. The risk for infarct-like abnormalities increased by 44 percent for those with migraine with aura compared to those without aura. Brain volume changes were more common in people with migraine and migraine with aura than those with no migraines.”Migraine affects about 10 to 15 percent of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational and social burden,” said Ashina. “We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.”

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First hundred thousand years of our universe

Aug. 7, 2013 — Mystery fans know that the best way to solve a mystery is to revisit the scene where it began and look for clues. To understand the mysteries of our universe, scientists are trying to go back as far they can to the Big Bang. A new analysis of cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation data by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has taken the furthest look back through time yet — 100 years to 300,000 years after the Big Bang — and provided tantalizing new hints of clues as to what might have happened.”We found that the standard picture of an early universe, in which radiation domination was followed by matter domination, holds to the level we can test it with the new data, but there are hints that radiation didn’t give way to matter exactly as expected,” says Eric Linder, a theoretical physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division and member of the Supernova Cosmology Project. “There appears to be an excess dash of radiation that is not due to CMB photons.”Our knowledge of the Big Bang and the early formation of the universe stems almost entirely from measurements of the CMB, primordial photons set free when the universe cooled enough for particles of radiation and particles of matter to separate. These measurements reveal the CMB’s influence on the growth and development of the large-scale structure we see in the universe today.Linder, working with Alireza Hojjati and Johan Samsing, who were then visiting scientists at Berkeley Lab, analyzed the latest satellite data from the European Space Agency’s Planck mission and NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which pushed CMB measurements to higher resolution, lower noise, and more sky coverage than ever before.”With the Planck and WMAP data we’re really pushing back the frontier and looking further back in the history of the universe, to regions of high energy physics we previously could not access,” Linder says. “While our analysis shows the CMB photon relic afterglow of the Big Bang being followed mainly by dark matter as expected, there was also a deviation from the standard that hints at relativistic particles beyond CMB light.”Linder says the prime suspects behind these relativistic particles are “wild” versions of neutrinos, the phantomlike subatomic particles that are the second most populous residents (after photons) of today’s universe. The term “wild” is used to distinguish these primordial neutrinos from those expected within particle physics and being observed today. Another suspect is dark energy, the anti-gravitational force that accelerates our universe’s expansion. Again, however, this would be from the dark energy we observe today.”Early dark energy is a class of explanations for the origin of cosmic acceleration that arises in some high energy physics models,” Linder says. …

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Current efforts will not save the world’s most endangered cat

July 21, 2013 — Almost 100 million euros has been spent so far on conservation efforts for the last 250 remaining Iberian lynxes in the wild. But the charismatic species is likely to go extinct within 50 years because the current management plans do not account for the effects of climate change. If they did, the population might increase instead concludes a new international study with participation from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. The study highlights the importance of integrating climate models in management plans for biodiversity.”Our models show that the anticipated climate change will lead to a rapid and dramatic decline of the Iberian lynx and probably eradicate the species within 50 years, in spite of the present-day conservation efforts. The only two populations currently present, will not be able to spread out or adapt to the changes in time,” explains Miguel Araújo from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.”Fortunately, it is not too late to improve the outlook for the endangered lynx, if the management plans begin to take account of climate change.”The Iberian lynx is threatened by poaching, road kills, habitat loss and lack of prey following a series of disease outbreaks in the rabbit populations. Therefore, significant investments are currently made to relocate rabbits, prevent diseases, reduce threats and improve the lynx’s natural habitat. Unfortunately it is not enough, show new models that investigate how climate change will influence the availability of prey and quality of natural areas in the future.Carefully planned reintroductions can increase populationThe scientists also modeled two other scenarios for the Iberian lynx, both based on a future prospect for releasing individuals from breeding programs into wild areas. They paint a more optimistic picture for the lynx’s survival, but the models clearly show that release programs also need to account for future climate change in order to achieve the best possible result.While Spanish policymakers are considering releasing lynxes evenly across the country’s autonomous regions, the scientists’ models predict the most suitable areas to be in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. These areas could ultimately deliver both prey abundance and habitatconnectivity in spite of climate change. According to the models it may increase the population up to nearly 900 individuals by 2090. …

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Chimpanzees and orangutans remember distant past events

July 18, 2013 — We humans can remember events in our lives that happened years ago, with those memories often surfacing unexpectedly in response to sensory triggers: perhaps a unique flavor or scent. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, on July 18 have evidence to suggest that chimpanzees and orangutans have similar capacities. In laboratory tests, both primate species were clearly able to recollect a tool-finding event that they had experienced just four times three years earlier and a singular event from two weeks before, the researchers show.Share This:It seems we have more in common with our primate cousins than we thought, specifically when it comes to our autobiographical memories, the researchers say.”Our data and other emerging evidence keep challenging the idea of non-human animals being stuck in time,” says Gema Martin-Ordas of Aarhus University in Denmark. “We show not only that chimpanzees and orangutans remember events that happened two weeks or three years ago, but also that they can remember them even when they are not expecting to have to recall those events at a later time.”The chimpanzees and orangutans in the study could also distinguish between similar past events in which the same tasks, locations, and people were involved, she adds. “This is a crucial finding since it implies that our subjects were able to bind the different elements of very similar events — including task, tool, experimenter. This idea of ‘binding’ has been considered to be a crucial component of autobiographical memories.”When presented with a particular setup, chimpanzees and orangutans instantaneously remembered where to search for tools and the location of a tool they had seen only once. The researchers note in particular the complexity and speed of the primates’ recall ability.”I was surprised to find out not only that they remembered the event that took place three years ago, but also that they did it so fast!” Martin-Ordas says. “On average it took them five seconds to go and find the tools. Again this is very telling because it shows that they were not just walking around the rooms and suddenly saw the boxes and searched for the tools inside them. More probably, it was the recalled event that enabled them to find the tools directly.”She says the new findings are just the beginning of a completely new line of research on memories for past events in non-human animals.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. …

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River deep, mountain high: New study reveals clues to lifecycle of world’s iconic mountains

June 27, 2013 — Scientists have discovered the reasons behind the lifespan of some of the world’s iconic mountain ranges.The study conducted by the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Aarhus University, Denmark, has revealed that interactions between landslides and erosion, caused by rivers, explains why some mountain ranges exceed their expected lifespan.Co-author Professor Mike Sandiford of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne said the study had answered the quandary as to why there was fast erosion in active mountain ranges in the Himalayas and slow erosion in others such as the Great Dividing Range in Australia or the Urals in Russia.”We have shown that links between landslides and rivers are important in maintaining erosion in active or ancient mountain ranges,” he said.”This study is a great insight into the origins and topography of our globe’s mountainous landscape.”Mountain ranges are expected to erode away in the absence of tectonic activity but several ranges, such as the Appalachians in the US and the Urals in Russia, have been preserved over several hundred million years.Co-author, Professor David Egholm from Aarhus University said the new model study published in Nature today provided a plausible mechanism for the preservation of tectonically inactive mountain ranges.”Computational simulations performed for the study revealed that variations in mountain erosion may relate to a coupling between river incision and landslides,” he said.Researchers said rivers can cut through bedrock and this process is thought to be the major factor in controlling mountain erosion, however, the long-term preservation of some mountains is at odds with some of the underlying assumptions regarding river erosion rates in current models of river-based landscape evolution.The study revealed landslides affected river erosion rates in two ways. Large landslides overwhelm river transport capacity and can protect the riverbed from further erosion; conversely, landslides also deliver abrasive agents to the streams, thereby accelerating erosion.Feedback between these processes can help to stabilize the rates of erosion and increase the lifespan of mountains, the authors said.

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Designated drivers don’t always abstain: One in three are impaired, study suggests

June 10, 2013 — Maybe better call that cab, after all: A new University of Florida study found that 35 percent of designated drivers had quaffed alcohol and most had blood-alcohol levels high enough to impair their driving.Adam Barry, an assistant professor of health education and behavior at UF, and his team interviewed and breath-tested more than 1,000 bar patrons in the downtown restaurant and bar district of a major university town in the Southeast. Of the designated drivers who had consumed alcohol, half recorded a blood-alcohol level higher than .05 percent — a recently recommended new threshold for drunken driving.”If you look at how people choose their designated drivers, oftentimes they’re chosen by who is least drunk or who has successfully driven intoxicated in the past — successful meaning got home in one piece … that’s disconcerting,” Barry said.The results are published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.The researchers recruited patrons as they left bars between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. across six Friday nights before home football games in fall 2011. The mean age of the 1,071 people who agreed to be tested was 28. Most were white male college students, while 10 percent were Hispanic, 6 percent were Asian and 4 percent were African-American.After completing a 3-5 minute interview about demographic data and alcohol-related behaviors, participants then had their blood-alcohol content tested with a hand-held breath-testing instrument.The non-driving participants had significantly higher levels than the designated drivers, but 35 percent of the 165 self-identified designated drivers had been drinking. Seventeen percent of all those drivers tested had blood-alcohol levels between .02 and .049 percent, while 18 percent were at .05 percent or higher.The National Transportation Safety Board last month recommended all 50 states adopt a blood-alcohol content cutoff of 0.05 compared with the 0.08 standard used today to prosecute drunken driving. The American Medical Association made the same recommendation in the 1980s, Barry said.Barry said he doesn’t know why a designated driver would consume alcohol, but factors could include group dynamics or the driver’s belief that one or two drinks won’t impair his skills if he is an experienced drinker.Some field-based research suggests designated drivers might drink because the group did not consider who would drive before drinking commenced. Barry also suggested that it’s tricky for anyone to accurately evaluate their own sobriety.”That’s the insidious nature of alcohol — when you feel buzzed, you’re drunk,” he said.There is no universally accepted definition of a designated driver, according to the research. …

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TCE exposure linked to increased risk of some cancers

May 30, 2013 — Trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure has possible links to increased liver cancer risk, and the relationship between TCE exposure and risks of cancers of low incidence and those with confounding by lifestyle and other factors need further study, according to a study published May 30 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

TCE is a chlorinated dry-cleaning solvent and degreaser that has been widely used for approximately the last 100 years and has shown carcinogenicity in rodents. Previous epidemiologic studies have shown a reported increase in cancer risk in humans for the kidney, cervix, liver and biliary passages, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

In order to determine the link between TCE exposure and increased cancer risk, Johnni Hansen, Ph.D., of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen, and colleagues looked at a cohort of workers that had individual documentation for exposure to TCE in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, where the individuals were monitored for urinary TCE metabolite trichloroacetic acid during 1947-1989 and followed for cancer.

The researchers found statistically significant elevated standardized incidence ratios for primary liver cancer and cervical cancer, but did not find a statistically significant risk of either non-Hodgkin lymphoma or esophageal or kidney cancer.

“Our pooled study of documented TCE-exposed workers provides some evidence for an increased risk of liver cancer, although confounding by other exposures cannot be ruled out. Evaluation of a possible modest risk for kidney cancer and non- Hodgkin lymphoma requires studies with greater statistical power,” the authors write.

In an accompanying editorial, Mark P. Purdue, Ph.D., of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute writes that there has been concern with workers exposed to TCE since the early 1970s and that even though it is now classified as a human carcinogen, further research is needed and safer options should be explored. “Where possible, TCE should be substituted by safer alternative chemicals and/or emissions should be reduced. Conversion from conventional vapor degreasers to new low-emission equipment such as enclosed vapor degreasing systems can greatly reduce solvent exposures in the workplace, and aqueous cleaning systems may also be feasible alternatives in certain applications.”

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