Anti-inflammatory drug can prevent neuron loss in Parkinson’s model

An experimental anti-inflammatory drug can protect vulnerable neurons and reduce motor deficits in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have shown.The results were published Thursday, July 24 in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.The findings demonstrate that the drug, called XPro1595, can reach the brain at sufficient levels and have beneficial effects when administered by subcutaneous injection, like an insulin shot. Previous studies of XPro1595 in animals tested more invasive modes of delivery, such as direct injection into the brain.”This is an important step forward for anti-inflammatory therapies for Parkinson’s disease,” says Malu Tansey, PhD, associate professor of physiology at Emory University School of Medicine. “Our results provide a compelling rationale for moving toward a clinical trial in early Parkinson’s disease patients.”The new research on subcutaneous administration of XPro1595 was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). XPro1595 is licensed by FPRT Bio, and is seeking funding for a clinical trial to test its efficacy in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.”We are proud to have supported this work and glad to see positive pre-clinical results,” said Marco Baptista, PhD, MJFF associate director of research programs. “A therapy that could slow Parkinson’s progression would be a game changer for the millions living with this disease, and this study is a step in that direction.”In addition, Tansey and Yoland Smith, PhD, from Yerkes National Primate Research Center, were awarded a grant this week from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation to test XPro1595 in a non-human primate model of Parkinson’s.Evidence has been piling up that inflammation is an important mechanism driving the progression of Parkinson’s disease. XPro1595 targets tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a critical inflammatory signaling molecule, and is specific to the soluble form of TNF. This specificity would avoid compromising immunity to infections, a known side effect of existing anti-TNF drugs used to treat disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.”Inflammation is probably not the initiating event in Parkinson’s disease, but it is important for the neurodegeneration that follows,” Tansey says. “That’s why we believe that an anti-inflammatory agent, such as one that counteracts soluble TNF, could substantially slow the progression of the disease.”Postdoctoral fellow Christopher Barnum, PhD and colleagues used a model of Parkinson’s disease in rats in which the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is injected into only one side of the brain. This reproduces some aspects of Parkinson’s disease: neurons that produce dopamine in the injected side of the brain die, leading to impaired movement on the opposite side of the body.When XPro1595 is given to the animals 3 days after 6-OHDA injection, just 15 percent of the dopamine-producing neurons were lost five weeks later. …

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Vulnerability of sharks as collateral damage in commercial fishing shown by study

A new study that examined the survival rates of 12 different shark species when captured as unintentional bycatch in commercial longline fishing operations found large differences in survival rates across the 12 species, with bigeye thresher, dusky, and scalloped hammerhead being the most vulnerable. The study, led by researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and UM Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, provides new information to consider for future conservation measures for sharks in the Northwest Atlantic. The unintentional capture of a fish species when targeting another species, known as bycatch, is one of the largest threats facing many marine fish populations.Researchers from UM and the National Marine Fisheries Service analyzed over 10 years of shark bycatch data from the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico tuna and swordfish longline fisheries to examine how survival rates of sharks were affected by fishing duration, hook depth, sea temperature, animal size and the target fish. Some species, such as the tiger shark, exhibited over 95% survival, whereas other species survival was significantly lower, in the 20-40% range, such as night shark and scalloped hammerheads.”Our study found that the differences in how longline fishing is actually conducted, such as the depth, duration, and time-of-day that the longlines are fished can be a major driver of shark survival, depending on the species,” said UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D student and lead author Austin Gallagher. “At-vessel mortality is a crucial piece of the puzzle in terms of assessing the vulnerability of these open-ocean populations, some of which are highly threatened.”The researchers also generated overall vulnerability rankings of species taking into account not only their survival, but also reproductive potential. They found that species most at risk were those with both very slow reproductive potential and unusual body features, such as hammerheads and thresher sharks. The paper’s authors suggest that bycatch likely played an important role in the decline of scalloped hammerhead species in the Northwest Atlantic, which has been considered for increased international and national protections, such as the U.S. Endangered Species List.The researchers suggest that high at-vessel mortality, slow maturity, and specialized body structures combine for the perfect mixture to become extinction-prone.”Our results suggest that some shark species are being fished beyond their ability to replace themselves,” said UM Research Assistant Professor Neil Hammerschlag. “Certain sharks, such as big eye threshers and scalloped hammerheads, are prone to rapidly dying on the line once caught and techniques that reduce their interactions with fishing gear in the first place may be the best strategy for conserving these species.”The study, titled “Vulnerability of oceanic sharks as pelagic longline bycatch” was published online in the open-access journal Global Ecology and Conservation.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.”The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.”Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. …

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New EMS system dramatically improves survival from cardiac arrest

A new system that sent patients to designated cardiac receiving centers dramatically increased the survival rate of victims of sudden cardiac arrest in Arizona, according to a study published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine.”We knew lives would be saved if the hospitals implemented the latest cutting edge guidelines for post-cardiac arrest care and we were able to get cardiac arrest patients to those hospitals, similar to what is done for Level 1 trauma patients,” said lead study author Daniel Spaite, MD, Director of EMS Research at the University of Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center in Phoenix and Tucson and a professor and distinguished chair of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “Taking these patients directly to a hospital optimally prepared to treat cardiac arrest gave patients a better chance of survival and of preventing neurologic damage, a common result of these cardiac events.”Under the study, 31 hospitals, serving about 80 percent of the state’s population, were designated as cardiac receiving centers between December 2007 and November 2010. Approximately 55 emergency medicine service agencies also participated in the study.The study shows that the survival rate increased by more than 60 percent during the four-year period of the study, from 2007 to 2010. More importantly, when the results were adjusted for the various factors that significantly impact survival (such as age and how quickly the EMS system got to the patients after their arrest), the likelihood of surviving an arrest more than doubled. In addition, the likelihood of surviving with good neurological status also more than doubled.This statewide effort was accomplished through the Save Hearts Arizona Registry and Education-SHARE Program, a partnership involving the Arizona Department of Health Services, the University of Arizona, over 30 hospitals and more than 100 fire departments and EMS agencies. The SHARE Program is part of a network of statewide cardiac resuscitation programs dedicated to improving cardiac arrest survival and working together as the HeartRescue Project.”We worked closely with the hospitals around the state to implement these Guidelines and then formally recognized the hospitals as Cardiac Receiving Centers (CRCs) ,” said Ben Bobrow, MD, Medical Director of the Bureau of Emergency Medicine Services and Trauma System for the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix, Ariz. “We then developed protocols for our EMS agencies to transport post-cardiac arrest patients to those centers. Our overarching goal was to have more cardiac arrest victims leave the hospital in good shape and be able to return to their families and careers. As we suspected, ‘regionalizing’ the care for these critically-ill patients markedly increased their likelihood of survival and good neurologic outcome.”Dr. Bobrow, who is also a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and an emergency physician at Maricopa Medical Center, said the study shows that just transporting these patients to the nearest emergency department does not maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome. …

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Penn Medicine Receives $10 million Award to Study Asbestos Adverse Health Effects and Remediation of Asbestos

The BioRit Asbestos Superfund site is located in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Ambler is 20 miles north of Philadelphia.From the late 1880s through the present day, Ambler residents have had either occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos. As a result, both current and former residents of the area face potentially serious long-term health consequences.The Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) is an organization whose mission is to effectively translate environmental health sciences research findings into practical health promotion, disease prevention information, tools and resources for our target audiences.The Pennsylvania Department of Health, with the aid of the COEC, has determined that there has been an increase in the rate of mesothelioma in the Ambler area compared to the adjacent zip codes, with women having a greater …

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Biologist warn of early stages of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event

The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals — described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide — face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.Although these species represent a relatively low percentage of the animals at risk, their loss would have trickle-down effects that could shake the stability of other species and, in some cases, even human health.For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.Consequently, the number of rodents doubles — and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.”Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. …

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New hope for powdery mildew resistant barley

New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes a year. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist.”Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.”In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore even more important.”The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.”Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material — a papillae — around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.”It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.”It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.”We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Prematurity linked to altered lung function during exercise, high blood pressure in adults

Advances in medicine have greatly contributed to the survival of extremely preterm infants in the US. However, the picture of long-term health effects related to prematurity is still unclear. Researchers at the University of Oregon compared lung function among adults who were born extremely preterm (at less than 28 weeks), very preterm (at less than 32 weeks), and full term (~39-40 weeks). Steven Laurie, PhD, will present the research team’s findings in a poster session on Tuesday, April 29, at the Experimental Biology meeting.Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six sponsoring societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping current and future clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from throughout across the United States and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research. www.experimentalbiology.orgLaurie et al. studied three groups at rest and during exercise: young adults who were born extremely to very preterm and developed a lung condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), preterm adults who didn’t develop BPD (PRE), and full-term adult control subjects (CONT). They found that the PRE subjects had a harder time handling the increased blood flow from the heart during exercise than the BPD and CONT subjects. The vascular function of the lungs during exercise suggested that the PRE adults may also be at increased risk of developing high lung blood pressure.”Healthy young humans have lungs designed to easily handle the increased blood flow from the heart during exercise. However, adults born extremely to very preterm have abnormally developed lungs, which may result in lungs that are unable to handle the demands of exercise. …

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Almost half of homeless men had traumatic brain injury in their lifetime

Almost half of all homeless men who took part in a study by St. Michael’s Hospital had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury in their life and 87 per cent of those injuries occurred before the men lost their homes.While assaults were a major cause of those traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, (60 per cent) many were caused by potentially non-violent mechanisms such as sports and recreation (44 per cent) and motor vehicle collisions and falls (42 per cent).The study, led by Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in the hospital’s Neuroscience Research Program, was published today in the journal CMAJ Open.Dr. Topolovec-Vranic said it’s important for health care providers and others who work with homeless people to be aware of any history of TBI because of the links between such injuries and mental health issues, substance abuse, seizures and general poorer physical health.The fact that so many homeless men suffered a TBI before losing their home suggests such injuries could be a risk factor for becoming homeless, she said. That makes it even more important to monitor young people who suffer TBIs such as concussions for health and behavioural changes, she said.Dr. Topolovec-Vranic looked at data on 111 homeless men aged 27 to 81 years old who were recruited from a downtown Toronto men’s shelter. She found that 45 per cent of these men had experienced a traumatic brain injury, and of these, 70 per cent were injured during childhood or teenage years and 87 per cent experienced an injury before becoming homeless.In men under age 40, falls from drug/alcohol blackouts were the most common cause of traumatic brain injury while assault was the most common in men over 40 years old.Recognition that a TBI sustained in childhood or early teenage years could predispose someone to homelessness may challenge some assumptions that homelessness is a conscious choice made by these individuals, or just the result of their addictions or mental illness, said Dr. Topolovec-Vranic.This study received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.Separately, a recent study by Dr. Stephen Hwang of the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, found the number of people who are homeless or vulnerably housed and who have also suffered a TBI may be as high as 61 per cent — seven times higher than the general population.Dr. Hwang’s study, published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, is one of the largest studies to date investigating TBI in homeless populations. …

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Take the bat, leave the candy: The food environment of youth baseball

‘Take me out to the ballgame’ doesn’t exactly conjure up images of apple slices and kale chips. The more likely culprits include French fries, soda and the occasional box of Crackerjacks.Unfortunately for children who play youth baseball, eating unhealthy food during practices and games may be contributing to weight problems, according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study, published in the current online edition of Childhood Obesity, found that high-calorie snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks dominate the youth baseball scene.“Though youth sports are an excellent way to promote physical activity, social interaction and positive health behaviors, the food environments are often characterized by less healthy food options with high calorie contents and lower nutrient density,” said Joseph Skelton, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study.In this observational study, the research team conducted an environmental scan of foods consumed by players and family members during 12 games at a youth baseball field in northwest North Carolina. The players were boys 8 to 11 years old on six teams.The researchers found that most snacks were high-calorie food items, including French fries, candy and cookies and most beverages were sugar-sweetened. Nearly 90 percent of food and beverage items purchased were from the concession stand.“Team sports like baseball are still very important for children’s activity and development,” said Megan Irby, M.S, co-author and research program manager of Brenner FIT, a multidisciplinary pediatric obesity program at Wake Forest Baptist.“But as seen in this study, games and practices can be upwards of two to three nights a week, and many children participate on multiple sports teams each year. Parents should plan ahead for these busy times and even advocate in their local sports leagues for policies that address snacks and drinks.”This research was the first step in exploring the question of whether children and families attending youth sporting events may be increasing their risk for being overweight or obese as a result of chronic unhealthy food behaviors associated with sports participation, Skelton said. Contrary to the intent of youth sports, these findings indicate that children may be leaving the ball field having consumed more calories than they expended.“Despite the benefits of participating in sports, the increased exposure to unhealthy foods and disruption of meal times may increase children’s risk for poor nutritional habits that can contribute to weight management issues,” Skelton said.A limitation of the study was the ability to accurately document all foods consumed at the ballpark without being intrusive.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Tsetse fly genome reveals weaknesses: International 10-year project unravels biology of disease-causing fly

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.The tsetse fly spreads the parasitic diseases human African trypanosomiasis, known as sleeping sickness, and Nagana that infect humans and animals respectively. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, 70 million people are currently at risk of deadly infection. Human African trypanosomiasis is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of neglected tropical diseases and since 2013 has become a target for eradication. Understanding the tsetse fly and interfering with its ability to transmit the disease is an essential arm of the campaign.This disease-spreading fly has developed unique and unusual biological methods to source and infect its prey. Its advanced sensory system allows different tsetse fly species to track down potential hosts either through smell or by sight. This study lays out a list of parts responsible for the key processes and opens new doors to design prevention strategies to reduce the number of deaths and illness associated with human African trypanosomiasis and other diseases spread by the tsetse fly.”Tsetse flies carry a potentially deadly disease and impose an enormous economic burden on countries that can least afford it by forcing farmers to rear less productive but more trypanosome-resistant cattle.” says Dr Matthew Berriman, co-senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “Our study will accelerate research aimed at exploiting the unusual biology of the tsetse fly. The more we understand, the better able we are to identify weaknesses, and use them to control the tsetse fly in regions where human African trypanosomiasis is endemic.”The team, composed of 146 scientists from 78 research institutes across 18 countries, analysed the genome of the tsetse fly and its 12,000 genes that control protein activity. The project, which has taken 10 years to complete, will provide the tsetse research community with a free-to-access resource that will accelerate the development of improved tsetse-control strategies in this neglected area of research.The tsetse fly is related to the fruit fly — a favoured subject of biologists for more than 100 years — but its genome is twice as large. Within the genome are genes responsible for its unusual biology. …

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Improving understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry

A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components.”Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Assistant Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “However, the actual patterns and causes of variation of water quality in headwater streams are often unknown.””Understanding the chemistry of these streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help us protect aquatic ecosystems,” said Gene E. Likens, president emeritus and distinguished senior scientist emeritus with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Connecticut.Results of the study that used a new statistical tool to describe spatial patterns of water chemistry in stream networks are published in the April 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science by a team of ecosystem scientists, including McGuire and Likens.The data used in the new analysis consist of 664 water samples collected every 300 feet throughout all 32 tributaries of the 14-square-mile Hubbard Brook Valley in New Hampshire. The chemistry results were originally reported in 2006 in the journal Biogeochemistry by Likens and Donald C. Buso, manager of field research with the Cary Institute.McGuire and other members of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research team at the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study decided that the huge, high-resolution dataset was ideal for a new statistical approach that examines how water flows both within the stream network and across the landscape.”The goal was to visualize patterns that no one has been able to quantify before now and describe how they vary within headwater stream networks,” said McGuire. “Some chemical constituents vary at a fine scale, that is patterns of chemical change occur over very short distances, for example several hundred feet, but some constituents vary over much larger scales, for example miles. Several chemical constituents that we examined even varied at multiple scales suggesting that nested processes within streams and across the landscape influence the chemistry of stream networks.””The different spatial relationships permit the examination of patterns controlled by landscape versus stream network processes,” the article reports. Straight-line and unconnected network spatial relationships indicate landscape influences, such as soil, geology, and vegetation controls of water chemistry, for instance. In contrast, flow-connected relationships provide information on processes affected within the flowing streams.The researchers are very familiar with the Hubbard Brook Valley and could point to the varying influences of the geology and distinct soil types, including areas of shallow acidic organic-rich soils.The findings revealed by the analysis technique showed how chemistry patterns vary across landscapes with two scales of variation, one around 1,500 feet and another at about 4 miles. …

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Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children

In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement unveiled today provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs.”There’s no arguing with the fact that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. are troubling for our nation’s health, specifically the recently reported rise in severe obesity among children in JAMA Pediatrics,” said TOS spokesperson Diana Thomas, PhD, Professor at Montclair State University and Director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research. “Following a thorough review and analysis of the existing research, TOS concludes that, by adding more non-nutritious calories to the American diet, SSBs have contributed to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Further, we recommend that to maintain and improve health children minimize drinking SSBs and adults reduce or avoid SSB consumption as part of an overall strategy to reduce calories.”According to the position statement posted online, TOS defines SSBs as sodas, sports drinks and other types of beverages that are primarily made up of water and added sugar. Consumption of these drinks in the U.S. remains high — Americans report that SSBs comprise 6-7% of overall calorie intake.”Despite the challenges researchers have faced with isolating the impact of specific foods or beverages on body weight, the studies conducted on SSBs thus far have generated important and meaningful data leading to our conclusion,” said Dr. Thomas. “The evidence shows that individuals with a higher BMI consume more SSBs than their leaner counterparts, and that decreasing SSB consumption may reduce overall calorie intake and help individuals with obesity or overweight reach healthy weight goals.”Weight gain occurs when total energy intake exceeds energy expenditure for extended periods of time. …

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Cyber buddy is better than ‘no buddy’

A Michigan State University researcher is looking to give exercise enthusiasts the extra nudge they need during a workout, and her latest research shows that a cyber buddy can help.The study, which appears in the Games for Health Journal, is the first to indicate that although a human partner is still a better motivator during exercise, a software-generated partner also can be effective.”We wanted to demonstrate that something that isn’t real can still motivate people to give greater effort while exercising than if they had to do it by themselves,” said Deborah Feltz, a University Distinguished Professor in MSU’s kinesiology department who led the study with co-investigator Brian Winn, associate professor in MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.The implications from the research also could open the door for software and video game companies to create cyber buddy programs based on sport psychology.”Unlike many of the current game designs out there, these results could allow developers to create exercise platforms that incorporate team or partner dynamics that are based on science,” said Feltz.Using “CyBud-X,” an exercise game specifically developed for Feltz’s research, 120 college-aged participants were given five different isometric plank exercises to do with one of three same-sex partner choices.Along with a human partner option, two software-generated buddies were used — one representing what looked to be a nearly human partner and another that looked animated. The participant and partner image were then projected onto a screen via a web camera while exercising.The results showed that a significant motivational gain was observed in all partner conditions.”Even though participants paired with a human partner held their planks, on average, one minute and 20 seconds longer than those with no partner, those paired with one of the software-generated buddies still held out, on average, 33 seconds longer,” said Feltz.Much of Feltz’s research in this area has focused on the Khler Motivation Effect, a phenomenon that explains why people, who may not be adept exercisers themselves, perform better with a moderately better partner or team as opposed to working out alone.Her findings give credence that programs such as “CyBud-X” can make a difference in the way people perform.”We know that people tend to show more effort during exercise when there are other partners involved because their performance hinges on how the entire team does,” she said. “The fact that a nonhuman partner can have a similar effect is encouraging.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Positive outcomes for hepatitis C transplant patients

New research announced at the International Liver CongressTM 2014 today provides new hope for the notoriously difficult-to-treat population of liver transplant patients with recurring hepatitis C (HCV).As part of a compassionate use program, 104 post-liver transplant patients with recurring HCV who had exhausted all treatment options and had poor clinical prognoses, received sofosbuvir (SOF) and ribavirin (RBV) with pegylated interferon (PEG) included at the physicians’ discretion for up to 48 weeks. Among patients whose clinical outcomes have been reported, 62% achieved SVR12. Additionally, 62% of patients had improvements in clinical conditions associated with hepatic decompensation (e.g., ascites and encephalopathy) and/or improvement in liver function tests. SOF+RBVPEG was well-tolerated and led to high rates of virologic suppression.EASL’s European Policy Councillor Professor Patrizia Burra of the Multivisceral Transplant Unit, Padova University Hospital, Padua, Italy said: “There are currently no effective treatment options for this patient group. However, this new trial involving the nucleotide polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir (SOF) has demonstrated promising results, providing further evidence of its clinical potential.””For patients with advanced hepatitis C liver disease, liver transplants offer a second chance,” continued Professor Burra, “and for those who continue to suffer post-surgery, it’s important for us to keep following up all avenues possible to improve their quality of life.”Other research revealed at the International Liver CongressTM 2014 showed that most patients with mild hepatitis C recurrence diagnosed one year after liver transplant have excellent long-term outcomes.In the second study, 172 patients who were diagnosed with mild hepatitis C recurrence one year after undergoing liver transplant surgery between 1999 and 2012 were followed for six and a half years with all relevant transplant-related, donor and recipient variables recorded. The cumulative probability of HCV-related graft loss five and 10 years after liver transplant were 3% and 10%, respectively.However one third of these patients are still at risk of going on to develop cirrhosis, further demonstrating the need for antiviral therapy pre or post-transplant.Hepatitis C infection is a common cause of liver transplantation, with virus-related diseases comprising 40% of primary indications for liver transplantation in Europe among patients with cirrhosis.More than 5,500 liver transplantations are currently performed in Europe per year.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by European Association for the Study of the Liver. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Scientists grow cartilage to reconstruct nose

Scientists at the University of Basel report first ever successful nose reconstruction surgery using cartilage grown in the laboratory. Cartilage cells were extracted from the patient’s nasal septum, multiplied and expanded onto a collagen membrane. The so-called engineered cartilage was then shaped according to the defect and implanted. The results will be published in the current edition of the academic journal The Lancet.A research team from the University of Basel in Switzerland has reported that nasal reconstruction using engineered cartilage is possible. They used a method called tissue engineering where cartilage is grown from patients’ own cells. This new technique was applied on five patients, aged 76 to 88 years, with severe defects on their nose after skin cancer surgery. One year after the reconstruction, all five patients were satisfied with their ability to breathe as well as with the cosmetic appearance of their nose. None of them reported any side effects.Cells from the nasal septumThe type of non-melanoma skin cancer investigated in this study is most common on the nose, specifically the alar wing of the nose, because of its cumulative exposure to sunlight. To remove the tumor completely, surgeons often have to cut away parts of cartilage as well. Usually, grafts for reconstruction are taken from the nasal septum, the ear or the ribs and used to functionally reconstruct the nose. …

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Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows

Green tea is said to have many putative positive effects on health. Now, researchers at the University of Basel are reporting first evidence that green tea extract enhances the cognitive functions, in particular the working memory. The Swiss findings suggest promising clinical implications for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia. The academic journal Psychopharmacology has published their results.In the past the main ingredients of green tea have been thoroughly studied in cancer research. Recently, scientists have also been inquiring into the beverage’s positive impact on the human brain. Different studies were able to link green tea to beneficial effects on the cognitive performance. However, the neural mechanisms underlying this cognitive enhancing effect of green tea remained unknown.Better memoryIn a new study, the researcher teams of Prof. Christoph Beglinger from the University Hospital of Basel and Prof. Stefan Borgwardt from the Psychiatric University Clinics found that green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity, meaning the causal influence that one brain area exerts over another. This effect on connectivity also led to improvement in actual cognitive performance: Subjects tested significantly better for working memory tasks after the admission of green tea extract.For the study healthy male volunteers received a soft drink containing several grams of green tea extract before they solved working memory tasks. …

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Genes increase the stress of social disadvantage for some children

Genes amplify the stress of harsh environments for some children, and magnify the advantage of supportive environments for other children, according to a study that’s one of the first to document how genes interacting with social environments affect biomarkers of stress.”Our findings suggest that an individual’s genetic architecture moderates the magnitude of the response to external stimuli — but it is the environment that determines the direction” says Colter Mitchell, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses telomere length as a marker of stress. Found at the ends of chromosomes, telomeres generally shorten with age, and when individuals are exposed to disease and chronic stress, including the stress of living in a disadvantaged environment.For the study, Mitchell and colleagues used telomere samples from a group of 40 nine-year-old boys from two very different environments – one nurturing and the other harsh. Those in the nurturing environment came from stable families, with nurturing parenting, good maternal mental health, and positive socioeconomic conditions, while those in the harsh environment experienced high levels of poverty, harsh parenting, poor maternal mental health, and high family instability.For those children with heightened sensitivity in the serotonergic and dopaminergic genetic pathways compared to other children, telomere length was shortest in a disadvantaged environment, and longest in a supportive environment.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Flipping the switch on scleroderma

Scleroderma is a rare and often fatal disease, causing the thickening of tissue, that currently lacks a cure and any effective treatments. A group of researchers, including a Michigan State University professor, is looking to change that.”Our findings provide a new approach to developing better treatment options where few have existed,” said Richard Neubig, chairperson of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.Neubig, along with several of his colleagues from the University of Michigan, have identified the core signaling pathway that activates the disease and the chemical compounds that can turn it off.”There are two kinds of scleroderma — localized and systemic — with the latter often proving to be life threatening,” said Neubig, who helped lead the study. “This research shows that by inhibiting this main signaling pathway, we can block fibrosis — the thickening of tissue that occurs with the disease.”For localized scleroderma patients, this process often happens in the skin resulting in loss of flexibility. Systemic sclerosis has the same effect with variable degree of skin fibrosis, but also can spread throughout the body hardening key organs such as the lungs, heart, gut and kidneys.Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder. It’s estimated 300,000 Americans suffer from the disease with about one-third of those having the systemic form. Localized scleroderma patients usually live normal lifespans. Yet about half of systemic patients, especially with widespread skin involvement and internal organ fibrosis, will see their lives cut short.”The majority of drug treatments that exist today for fibrosis basically look at reducing just the inflammation,” said Dinesh Khanna, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Scleroderma Program at the University of Michigan. “There are other drugs that block one or two of the signaling pathways that cause the disease, but scleroderma has many of these pathways.”Neubig agrees and adds that this new research could significantly change the quality of life for scleroderma patients and greatly increase the lifespan of systemic patients.”Our research shows promise for the development of a new drug that can reverse the fibrosis process by flipping the main switch on all of the signaling pathways,” Neubig said. “By validating this core switch as a viable drug target, we can now continue our work to improve the chemical compounds so they will work with doses that are appropriate for people. It’s definitely promising.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. …

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Morning rays keep off pounds

A surprising new strategy for managing your weight? Bright morning light.A new Northwestern Medicine study reports the timing, intensity and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight — the first time this has been shown.People who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day, the study found. (BMI is a ratio calculated from a person’s weight and height.)”The earlier this light exposure occurred during the day, the lower individuals’ body mass index,” said co-lead author Kathryn Reid, research associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The later the hour of moderately bright light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI.”The influence of morning light exposure on body weight was independent of an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. It accounted for about 20 percent of a person’s BMI.”Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” said study senior author Phyllis C. Zee, M.D. “The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon.” About 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI.Zee is the Benjamin and Virginia T. Boshes Professor of Neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She also is a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain,” Zee said. …

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