Oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America? Location of Fort Caroline may be in Georgia

In an announcement that could rewrite the book on early colonization of the New World, two researchers today said they have proposed a location for the oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America. Speaking at an international conference on France at Florida State University, the pair announced that they have proposed a new location for Fort Caroline, a long-sought fort built by the French in 1564.”This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,” said Florida State University alumnus and historian Fletcher Crowe. “This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.”Announcement of the discovery of Fort Caroline was made during “La Floride Franaise: Florida, France, and the Francophone World,” a conference hosted by FSU’s Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies and its Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution. The conference commemorates the cultural relations between France and Florida since the 16th century.Researchers have been searching for actual remains of Fort Caroline for more than 150 years but had not found the actual site until now, Crowe said. The fort was long thought to be located east of downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on the south bank of the St. Johns River. The Fort Caroline National Memorial is located just east of Jacksonville’s Dames Point Bridge, which spans the river.However, Crowe and his co-author, Anita Spring, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Florida, say that the legendary fort is actually located near the mouth of the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia.”This really is an important work of scholarship, and what a great honor it is for it to be announced at a conference organized by the Winthrop-King Institute,” said Martin Munro, a professor in FSU’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics and director of the Winthrop-King Institute. “It demonstrates the pre-eminence of the institute and recognizes the work we do in promoting French and Francophone culture in Florida, the United States and internationally.”Darrin McMahon, the Ben Weider Professor of History and a faculty member with the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution, observed that Crowe and Spring’s finding — like the conference itself — highlights France’s longstanding presence in Florida and the Southeast. …

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Managing chronic bone, joint pain

Musculoskeletal pain of the bone, joint and muscles is one of the most common reasons for primary care visits in the United States. According to a literature review appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), chronic pain, or pain that persists beyond an expected period of healing, is estimated to affect 100 million Americans.The majority of chronic pain complaints concern the musculoskeletal system, but they also include headaches and abdominal pain. “As orthopaedic surgeons, we are experts in the management of acute injuries to the extremities and spine. As a specialty, however, we are admittedly less adept in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain,” says lead study author Richard L. Uhl, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. “Given its prevalence, and the profound economic implications of chronic pain on both healthcare costs and lost productivity, we have a duty to be proficient in its diagnosis and care.”The Bare FactsLow back pain affects up to 80 percent of Americans at some point in life, and consistently ranks among the top five most common reasons for all healthcare visits in the U.S. Chronic knee, hip, and shoulder pain from degenerative processes also is common, as are chronic neuropathic pains from advanced diabetes. Orthopaedic surgeons and primary care physicians encounter patients who suffer from chronic pain almost daily.A Surprising Study Finding Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — easily the most commonly recommended or prescribed medication by orthopaedic surgeons — are not especially effective in many chronic pain scenarios. “While far from the everyday ‘arsenal’ of orthopaedic surgeons, antidepressants and anticonvulsants (medications to prevent seizures) can have remarkable effects on many forms of chronic bone and joint pain. There are many readily-accessible, economic, safe and effective treatments for chronic pain,” says Dr. …

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Silicone ear is ‘indistinguishable’ from real thing for man who lost ear to cancer

To look at Henry Fiorentini’s artificial right ear, you could never tell he lost his real ear to cancer.Loyola University Medical Center ear surgeon Sam Marzo, MD, fitted Fiorentini with a prosthetic ear that looks just like the real thing. Marzo implanted three small metal posts in the side of Fiorentini’s head. Each post is fitted with a magnet. The silicone prosthetic ear also is magnetized, so it sticks to the metal posts.But even more remarkable to Fiorentini is the delicate surgery Marzo performed to successfully remove the cancer, without harming the facial nerve. Other doctors had told Fiorentini it couldn’t be done.”Dr. Marzo saved my life,” said Fiorentini, 56. “I now have a long life ahead of me, free of significant disfiguration and recurrent cancer.”Fiorentini had basal cell skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. It’s slow-growing and usually easily treated. But in Fiorentini’s case, the cancer would become life-threatening.The cancer started behind his right ear. And despite multiple surgeries at other centers, the cancer persisted. …

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Drop in crime rates are less where Wal-Mart builds, study shows

Communities across the United States experienced an unprecedented decline in crime in the 1990s. But for counties where Wal-Mart built stores, the decline wasn’t nearly as dramatic.”The crime decline was stunted in counties where Wal-Mart expanded in the 1990s,” says Scott Wolfe, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and lead author of a new study. “If the corporation built a new store, there were 17 additional property crimes and 2 additional violent crimes for every 10,000 persons in a county.”The study, titled “Rolling back prices and raising crime rates? The Wal-Mart effect on crime in the United States,” released last month in the British Journal of Criminology, was co-authored with David Pyrooz, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University.Wolfe says the commonly known “Wal-Mart effect” is the company’s overwhelming influence on numerous economic and social factors in communities, including jobs, poverty rates and retail prices.The study was not intended to criticize Wal-Mart, he says. Instead, it attempted to answer the unexplored question of whether Wal-Mart could equate with either more or less crime.”There have been dozens of studies on the ‘Wal-Mart effect’ showing the company impacts numerous outcomes closely related to crime. Our objective was to determine if the Wal-Mart effect extended to understanding crime rates during arguably one of the most pivotal historical periods in the study of crime,” Wolfe says.Wolfe and Pyrooz based the study on 3,109 U.S. counties. They focused on Wal-Mart’s expansion in the 1990s, a time of dynamic growth for the company and falling crime rates nationally. During that decade Wal-Mart expanded in 767 of those counties.”There are reasons why Wal-Mart ranks among the most successful commercial enterprises in U.S. history,” Wolfe says. …

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What’s love got to do with it? Study on love and sex among America’s gay, bisexual men

A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at George Mason University’s Department of Global and Community Health and Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion draws some conclusions to an age-old question: What does love have to do with sex? And, in particular, among gay and bisexual men in the United States?While most research about love has been conducted among heterosexual-identified individuals or opposite sex couples, the focus of this study on same sex couples suggests experiences of love are far more similar than different, regardless of sexual orientation.The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “Special Section: Sexual Health in Gay and Bisexual Couples,” finds nearly all (92.6 percent) men whose most recent sexual event occurred with a relationship partner, indicated being in love with the partner at the time they had sex.This is the first time a study has described sexual behaviors engaged in by those men who report being in love, or not, during a given sexual event with a same-sex partner.”Given the recent political shifts around the Defense of Marriage Act and same-sex marriage in the United States, these findings highlight the prevalence and value of loving feelings within same same-sex relationships,” said lead investigator Joshua G. Rosenberger, a professor at George Mason’s College of Health and Human Services.Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University (IU) and one of the study co-authors, added, “This study is important because of myths and misunderstandings that separate men from love, even though the capacity to love and to want to be loved in return is a human capacity and is not limited by gender or sexual orientation.”The study collected data from an Internet-based survey of almost 25,000 gay and bisexual men residing in the United States who were members of online websites facilitating social or sexual interactions with other men.”Given the extent to which so much research is focused on the negative aspects of sexual behavior among gay men, particularly as it relates to HIV infection, we were interested in exploring the role of positive affect — in this case, love — during a specific sexual event,” said Rosenberger.Additional key findings include:Nearly all men in the study, 91.2 percent, were “matched” when it came to their feelings of love and their perceptions of their partner’s feelings of love. With regard to age, having been in love with their sexual partner during their sexual event was experienced most commonly by men age 30-39 years. Uncertainty of love for a sexual partner was less frequent in older cohorts, with a greater proportion of young men reporting they were unsure if they loved their sexual partner or if their sexual partner loved them. Men in love with their partners were significantly more likely to endorse the experience as being extremely or quite a bit pleasurable, compared to sexual events in which the participant was not in love. “We found it particularly interesting that the vast majority of men reported sex with someone they felt “matched” with in terms of love, meaning that most people who were in love had sex with the person they loved, but that there were also a number of men who had sex in the absence of love,” said Herbenick, of the IU School of Public Health in Bloomington. “Very few people had sex with someone they loved if that person didn’t love them back. This ‘matching’ aspect of love has not been well explored in previous research, regardless of sexual orientation.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by George Mason University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Valentine’s Day advice: Don’t let rocky past relations with parents spoil your romance

University of Alberta relationship researcher Matt Johnson has some Valentine’s Day advice for anybody who’s had rocky relations with their parents while growing up: don’t let it spill over into your current romantic partnership.The love between parents and teens — however stormy or peaceful — may influence whether those children are successful in romance, even up to 15 years later, according to a new U of A study co-authored by Johnson, whose work explores the complexities of the romantic ties that bind.Being aware of that connection may save a lot of heartache down the road, according to Johnson, who reviewed existing data that was gathered in the United States over a span of 15 years.The findings, which appear in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family, uncovered a “small but important link between parent-adolescent relationship quality and intimate relationships 15 years later,” Johnson said. “The effects can be long-lasting.”While their analysis showed, perhaps not surprisingly, that good parent-teen relationships resulted in slightly higher quality of romantic relationships for those grown children years later, it poses a lesson in self-awareness when nurturing an intimate bond with a partner, Johnson said.”People tend to compartmentalize their relationships; they tend not to see the connection between one kind, such as family relations, and another, like couple unions. But understanding your contribution to the relationship with your parents would be important to recognizing any tendency to replicate behaviour — positive or negative — in an intimate relationship.”That doesn’t mean parents should be blamed for what might be wrong in a grown child’s relationship, Johnson added. “It is important to recognize everyone has a role to play in creating a healthy relationship, and each person needs to take responsibility for their contribution to that dynamic.”The results were gleaned from survey-based information from 2,970 people who were interviewed at three stages of life from adolescence to young adulthood, spanning ages 12 to 32.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Alarming Mesothelioma Statistics For You to Know

Mesothelioma is not a very common disease with about 2000-3000 new cases seen in the US every year.-There was a gradual increase in the number of cases of newly diagnosed mesothelioma victims in the United States from the 1970’s to the 1990’s after which the number became fairly constant. After the year 2000 and beyond the number has likely been on the decrease.-Mesothelioma is more common in men. It is four times commoner in men than in women.-The number of new Mesothelioma cases is still increasing in European countries.-Mesothelioma commonly affects people over the age of 55 years, it is very rare to find Mesothelioma in people under the age of 55 years and its incidence increases with age, about 90% of people diagnosed with Mesothelioma are …

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Increase seen in donor eggs for in vitro fertilization, improved outcomes

Oct. 17, 2013 — Between 2000 and 2010 in the United States the number of donor eggs used for in vitro fertilization increased, and outcomes for births from those donor eggs improved, according to a study published by JAMA. The study is being released early online to coincide with its presentation at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the International Federation of Fertility Societies joint annual meeting.During the past several decades, the number of live births to women in their early 40s in the United States has increased steadily. The prevalence of oocyte (egg) donation for in vitro fertilization (IVF) has increased in the United States, but little information is available regarding maternal or infant outcomes to improve counseling and clinical decision making, according to background information in the article.Jennifer F. Kawwass, M.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, and colleagues examined trends in use of donor oocytes in the United States and assessed perinatal outcomes. The study used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Surveillance System (NASS); fertility centers are mandated to report their data to the system, which includes data on more than 95 percent of all IVF cycles performed in the United States. Good perinatal outcome was defined as a single live-born infant delivered at 37 weeks or later weighing 5.5 lbs. or more.The researchers found that at 443 clinics (93 percent of all U.S. fertility centers) the annual number of donor oocyte cycles performed in the United States increased from 10,801 in 2000 to 18,306 in 2010, as did the percentage of such cycles that involved frozen oocytes or embryos (vs. fresh) (26.7 percent to 40.3 percent) and that involved elective single-embryo transfer (vs. …

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Mesothelioma Patients

Mesothelioma PatientsCaring For a Mesothelioma PatientIt is estimated that approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Because the latency period (the period of time between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma) is long, people who were exposed to asbestos even decades ago are currently developing the disease. Another variable that is extremely important to a patients out look is his or her overall health at the time of diagnosis. Generally the healthier a patient is, the better he or she will react to cancer treatments, and the greater the chances of longer survival. It may take some time for the diagnosis to be made.A mesothelioma patient is an individual who has been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers in the …

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Asbestos: More Prevalent Than You Think

Given the overwhelming evidence of asbestos’ harmfulness to human health and its connection to the deadly disease mesothelioma, many United States citizens are under the impression that by now, asbestos has been phased out of most domestically-produced materials. However, many people are not aware that the 1989 EPA ban on many asbestos products was successful appealed and radically altered in 1991 by the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals.According to the EPA on this webpage, “Newspaper and magazine articles, Internet information, and currently available (but outdated) documents from the EPA and other federal agencies may contain incorrect statements about an EPA asbestos ban.” As a result, many products produced or imported for use in the U.S. construction industry may still contain asbestos.So what materials …

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Progress and challenges for reinventing food packaging for sustainability

Sep. 10, 2013 — Nature has provided the food industry with the perfect packages to imitate in the drive to embrace a new genre of boxes, bottles, fast-food clam shells and other sustainable packaging material for the 21st century, according to a recent presentation on the topic.Speaking at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Sara Risch, Ph.D. said that new packaging materials must meet the criteria for being sustainable without sacrificing the security, freshness and visibility of the food inside.”We face a huge challenge in developing new packaging materials that protect food all through the supply chain while being recyclable, compostable, produced with renewable energy or even edible,” Risch explained. Nature has set the standard, and it is daunting. Apples, oranges, bananas, nuts — all come in packaging that is edible or compostable.Risch said that the food industry clearly is embracing sustainable packaging. Although definitions vary, sustainable packaging often means packaging that can be composted, recycled or reused and is produced, transported and recycled using renewable energy; made with renewable or recycled materials; made in ways that optimize use of energy; and safe for people and the environment throughout its life cycle.”The industry has made great strides in reducing the amount of packaging,” said Risch, citing some of the most visible examples, such as thinner plastic water bottles and compostable potato chip bags. She is with Popz Europe Kft, Chicago, Ill. “But remember that packaging is there to protect the product and that function must not be compromised. Not all materials can be properly cleaned for re-use, for instance, and in some cases, it takes a lot of fuel to collect and transport glass and the heavy materials for re-use. In some instances, the fuel may exceed the value of the recycled material.”Industry data indicate that use of sustainable packaging diverted about 1.5 billion pounds of paper, plastic and other packaging material from landfills between 2005 and 2010 in the United States alone. …

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Medicaid pays for nearly half of all births in the United States

Sep. 3, 2013 — Medicaid paid for nearly half of the 3.8 million births in the United States in 2010—an amount that has been rising over time, according to a report out today. The study, published in the September 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Women’s Health Issues, offers the most comprehensive information to date on Medicaid financing of births in each of the 50 states and nationally.The new data will help researchers gauge the impact of health reform on maternal and child health, the authors say. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some states are expanding Medicaid and the expansion may lead to improved coverage of well-woman and maternity care—and perhaps result in better health outcomes, said lead author of the study Anne Markus, JD, PhD, MHS, an associate professor of health policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS).“As states expand coverage, low-income women of childbearing age will be able to obtain more continuous coverage before and between pregnancies,” said Markus. “Now, for the first time, researchers will have a comprehensive baseline that will help them determine how increased access to services might change pregnancies and ultimately birth outcomes.”Previously, data on Medicaid funding of births either did not exist in a comprehensive form or were not reliable. Markus and a team that included researchers from the March of Dimes set out to change that by collecting all such data on Medicaid births from individual states from 2008 to 2010.They discovered that in 2010 Medicaid paid for 48 percent of all births in the United States, up from 40 percent of Medicaid covered births in 2008. That represents a 19 percent increase in the proportion of all births financed by Medicaid and a 5 percent increase in the total number of Medicaid-financed births in just two years. The authors found that the number of Medicaid-financed births increased by 90,000 over the course of the study.The hope is that researchers will be able to use such data to determine whether rates of Medicaid financing of births change in the coming years and whether there is a connection between Medicaid coverage and health outcomes. For example, future studies would be able to examine whether expanding Medicaid coverage before and between pregnancies leads to fewer complicated pregnancies and more healthy, full-term babies.“About half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States every year,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. …

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Scientists uncover how superbug fights off antibiotic

Aug. 28, 2013 — Investigators working to stem the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have taken a major step in their efforts to develop new treatments.In mBio, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) report they have identified a novel mechanism that a particular superbug uses to fend off a key front-line antibiotic called daptomycin. The superbug often affects critically ill patients.This information is helping investigators identify compounds to knock out a mechanism of resistance in order to “disarm” the superbug.Prior to the mass production of antibiotics, a cut or strep throat could lead to serious illness or even death. Antibiotics gave doctors the ability to treat bacterial infections. But, bacteria have developed mechanisms of resistance that can make antibiotics ineffective against the most aggressive superbugs.Thousands of people succumb to superbug-related infections worldwide annually and superbugs account for $20 billion in excess health care costs in the United States each year.”Antibiotic resistance is one of the major public health threats of the 21st Century,” said Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s senior author and associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UTHealth Medical School. “These superbugs can make antibiotics useless, which makes certain bacterial infections virtually untreatable.”While there are several types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the study focused on a hard-to-treat superbug called vancomycin-resistant enterococci or VRE. VRE usually affect patients who have a compromised immune system or who are critically ill.The frequency of VRE recovered from hospitalized patients in the United States has increased eightfold in the last 15 years, becoming the second most common hospital-associated bacterium in the United States, Arias said.The superbug appears to be building resistance to one of the few antibiotics that works against it — daptomycin.To see how VRE developed the ability to ward off daptomycin during the course of treatment, Arias’ team used fluorescent labeled daptomycin and observed the interaction between the superbug and the antibiotic with the aid of advanced microscopy techniques.Contrary to the prevailing belief that tiny electrical charges on the surface of VRE cells repel the antibiotic, the researchers report that the VRE cells actually divert the antibiotic and “trap” it to an area where it is rendered ineffective. The mechanism of resistance is completed by changing the composition of the bacterial cell membrane. The study also provides the genetic and biochemical basis for the resistance pathway.”The importance of this work is that an understanding of ‘how’ bacteria become resistant can then lead to a search for new antibiotics that target the resistance pathway itself, thus overcoming and preventing resistance,” said Barbara E. Murray, M.D., study co-author as well as director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and holder of the J. …

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Taxing sugary beverages not a clear cut strategy to reduce obesity

July 30, 2013 — Taxing sugary beverages may help reduce calories from these beverages in the United States, but the health benefits may be partially offset as consumers substitute with other unhealthy foods, according to a joint study by researchers at RTI International, Duke University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.The study, published online in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, found that a half-cent per ounce increase in sugar-sweetened beverage prices, which adds up to about ten cents on a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda, could reduce total calories from the 23 foods and beverages examined under the study.However, researchers found the reduction in sugary beverages due to a soda tax would likely lead consumers to substitute for those beverage calories by increasing their calorie, salt and fat intake from untaxed foods and beverages.”Instituting a sugary beverage tax may be an appealing public policy option to curb obesity, but it’s not as easy to use taxes to curb obesity as it is with smoking,” said Chen Zhen, Ph.D., a research economist at RTI, and the paper’s lead author. “Consumers can simply substitute an untaxed high calorie food for a taxed one. And as we know, reducing calories is just one of many ways to promoting healthy eating and reducing nutrition-related chronic disease.”The study also examined differences in purchase behavior between lower and higher income households. Compared to higher income families’ purchases, foods and beverages purchased by lower income families tend to be higher in calories, fat and sodium content on average.”Because lower-income families tend to buy more sugary soft drinks than higher income families, they would more readily reap the health benefits of reduced sugary beverage intake,” Zhen said. “However, they would also pay more in beverage taxes, making it a regressive tax.”To conduct the study, researchers used data on household food purchases from the 2006 Nielsen Homescan panel, a large national consumer panel maintained by the Nielsen Company. Families in the panel are provided with a handheld scanner and instructed to scan the Universal Product Code (UPC) of products they purchased at retail outlets, record purchase quantities and coupons used and identify the retailer that the product was purchased from.Obesity rates in the United States are about 36 percent for adults and 17 percent for children and adolescents. A previous RTI study found that medical costs associated with obesity are estimated at $147 billion or more per year.The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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Therapy may curb kidney deterioration in patients with rare disorder

July 29, 2013 — A team led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health has overcome a major biological hurdle in an effort to find improved treatments for patients with a rare disease called methylmalonic acidemia (MMA). Using genetically engineered mice created for their studies, the team identified a set of biomarkers of kidney damage — a hallmark of the disorder — and demonstrated that antioxidant therapy protected kidney function in the mice.Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of NIH, validated the same biomarkers in 46 patients with MMA seen at the NIH Clinical Center. The biomarkers offer new tools for monitoring disease progression and the effects of therapies, both of which will be valuable in the researchers’ design of clinical trials for this disease.The discovery, reported in the July 29, 2013, advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paves the way for use of antioxidant therapy in a clinical trial for patients with MMA. It also illustrates the mechanisms by which dysfunction of mitochondria — the power generators of the cell — affects kidney disease. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a factor not only in rare disorders, such as MMA, but also in a wide variety of common conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.MMA affects as many as one in 67,000 children born in the United States. It can have several different causes, all involving loss of function of a metabolic pathway that moderates levels of an organic compound called methylmalonic acid. Affected children are unable to properly metabolize certain amino acids consumed in their diet, which damages a number of organs, most notably the kidneys.”Metabolic disorders like MMA are extremely difficult to manage because they perturb the delicate balance of chemicals that our bodies need to sustain health,” said Daniel Kastner, M.D., Ph.D., NHGRI scientific director. “Given that every newborn in the United States is screened for a number of inherited metabolic disorders, including MMA, there is a critical need for better understanding of the disease mechanisms and therapies to treat them.”MMA is the most common organic acid disorder and invariably impairs kidney function, which can lead to kidney failure. The most common therapy is a restrictive diet, but doctors must resort to dialysis or kidney transplantation when the disease progresses. MMA patients also suffer from severe metabolic instability, failure to thrive, intellectual and physical disabilities, pancreatitis, anemia, seizures, vision loss and strokes.”There are no definitive treatments for the management of patients with MMA,” said Charles Venditti, M.D., Ph.D., senior author and investigator in the Organic Acid Research Section of NHGRI’s Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch. …

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Organ transplantation as source of fatal rabies virus case

July 23, 2013 — An investigation into the source of a fatal case of raccoon rabies virus exposure indicates the individual received the virus via a kidney transplant 18 months earlier, findings suggesting that rabies transmitted by this route may have a long incubation period, and that although solid organ transplant transmission of infectious encephalitis is rare, further education to increase awareness is needed, according to a study in the July 24/31 issue of JAMA.The rabies virus causes a fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and can be transmitted through tissue or organ transplantation. “Unique rabies virus variants, distinguishable by molecular typing methods, are associated with specific animal reservoirs. Globally, an estimated 55,000 persons die of rabies every year, with most transmission attributable to dog bites. Approximately 2 human rabies deaths are reported in the United States every year and during 2000 through 2010, all but 2 domestically acquired cases were associated with bats. Despite raccoons being the most frequently reported rabid animal in the United States, only l human rabies case associated with the raccoon rabies virus variant has been reported,” according to background information in the article. In February 2013, a kidney recipient with no reported exposures to potentially rabid animals died from rabies 18 months after transplantation.Neil M. Vora, M.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether organ transplantation was the source of rabies virus exposure in the kidney recipient, and to evaluate for and prevent rabies in other transplant recipients (n = 3; right kidney, heart, and liver) from the same donor. Organ donor and all transplant recipient medical records were reviewed. Laboratory tests to detect rabies virus-specific binding antibodies, rabies virus neutralizing antibodies, and rabies virus antigens were conducted on available specimens, including serum, cerebrospinal fluid, and tissues from the donor and the recipients.The researchers found that in retrospect, the kidney donor’s symptoms prior to death were consistent with rabies (the presumed diagnosis at the time of death was ciguatera poisoning [a foodborne illness]). Subsequent interviews with family members revealed that the donor had significant wildlife exposure, and had sustained at least 2 raccoon bites, for which he did not seek medical care. …

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80 percent of Malaysian Borneo degraded by logging

July 17, 2013 — A study published in the July 17, issue of the journal PLOS ONE found that more than 80% of tropical forests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging.The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak were already thought to be global hotspots of forest loss and degradation due to timber and oil palm industries, but the rates and patterns of change have remained poorly measured by conventional field or satellite approaches. A research team from the University of Tasmania, University of Papua New Guinea, and the Carnegie Institution for Science documented the full extent of logging in this region.The team used the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System-lite (CLASlite) to reveal the vast and previously unmapped extent of heavily logged forest. CLASlite’s high-resolution satellite imaging uncovered logging roads in Brunei and in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.CLASlite, developed by Carnegie’s Greg Asner and team, has the unique ability to convert satellite images of seemingly dense tropical forest cover into highly detailed maps of deforestation and forest degradation. The user-friendly monitoring system has been made available to hundreds of governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions for use in mapping tropical forests.Analysis of satellite imagery collected from 1990 and 2009 over Malaysian Borneo showed approximately 226,000 miles (364,000 km) of roads constructed throughout the forests of this region. Nearly 80% of the land surface of Sabah and Sarawak was impacted by previously undocumented, high-impact logging or clearing operations. This finding contrasted strongly with neighboring Brunei, where 54% of the land area maintained intact unlogged forest.Team leader Jane Bryan said: “There is a crisis in tropical forest ecosystems worldwide, and our work documents the extent of the crisis on Malaysian Borneo. Only small areas of intact forest remain in Malaysian Borneo, because so much has been heavily logged or cleared for timber or oil palm production. Rainforests that previously contained lots of big old trees, which store carbon and support a diverse ecosystem, are being replaced with oil palm or timber plantations, or hollowed out by logging.”Only 8% and 3% of land area in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively, was covered by intact forests in designated protected areas. Very few forest ecosystems remain intact in Sabah or Sarawak. But Brunei has largely excluded industrial logging from its borders and has been comparatively successful in protecting its forests.Greg Asner commented: “The results are sobering. …

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Artificial organelles transform free radicals into water and oxygen

July 16, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Basel have successfully developed artificial organelles that are able to support the reduction of toxic oxygen compounds. This opens up new ways in the development of novel drugs that can influence pathological states directly inside the cell.The results have been published in the journal Nano Letters.Free oxygen radicals are produced either as metabolic byproduct, or through environmental influences such as UV-rays and smog. Is the concentration of free radicals inside the organism elevated to the point where the antioxidant defense mechanism is overwhelmed, the result can be oxidative stress, which is associated with numerous diseases such as cancer of arthritis.The aggressive molecules are normally controlled by endogenous antioxidants. Within this process, organelles located inside the cell, so-called peroxisomes, play an important part, since they assist in regulating the concentration of free oxygen radicals.Nanocapsules Transform Radicals into Water and OxygenProf. Cornelia Palivan and her research group at the University of Basel have successfully produced artificial peroxisomes that mimic the natural organelle. The researchers developed a cell organelle based on polymeric nanocapsules, in which two types of enzymes are encapsulated. These enzymes are able to transform free oxygen radicals into water and oxygen.In order to verify the functionality inside the cell, channel proteins were added to the artificial peroxisome’s membrane, to serve as gates for substrates and products. The results show that the artificial peroxisomes are incorporated into the cell, where they then very efficiently support the natural peroxisomes in the detoxification process.Novel DrugsThis type of effective principle targets the cell dysfunction directly on the cellular level, thus representing a further step towards the development of novel drugs that will make patient-oriented and personalized treatments possible in the future.

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Parasites in cat feces: Potential public health problem?

July 9, 2013 — Each year in the United States, cats deposit about 1.2 million metric tons of feces into the environment, and that poop is carrying with it what may be a vast and underappreciated public health problem, say scientists July 9 in the journal Trends in Parasitology, a Cell Press publication.Some of that poop is laden with an infectious parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that has recently caused toxoplasmosis epidemics in otherwise healthy people, not just in pregnant women or people with immune deficiencies. Additional concerns have been raised by studies linking T. gondii to schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, brain cancer, and even to kids’ trouble in school.”The accumulation of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts, found in cat feces, may be a much bigger problem than we realize because of their apparent long life and their association with some diseases,” said E. Fuller Torrey, who directs the Stanley Medical Research Institute.He calls for better control of the cat population, especially feral cats, and more research. Surveys have shown that our backyards and communities may harbor three to 400 oocysts per square foot or more in places where cats frequently leave deposits. Each and every one of those oocysts has the potential to cause an infection.As for the cats, they typically become infected upon hunting and eating an infected bird, mouse, or other small mammal. Then, they spread oocysts around into the soil, grass, water, and elsewhere.For cat owners, there is little need to worry if your cats stay indoors, Torrey says. If your feline friend (or your neighbors’) does spend time outside, take care with litter boxes, keep sandboxes covered, and wear gloves when gardening. One estimate shows that the dirt under ones fingernails could harbor up to 100 T. gondii oocysts.Torrey and coauthor Robert Yolken of Johns Hopkins University Medical Center recommend extra care with young children, who may be at the greatest risk. …

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