Can exercise help reduce methamphetamine use?

The abuse of amphetamine type psychomotor stimulants remains a critical legal and public health problem in the US. In California, 27% of substance abuse treatment admissions are for amphetamines; high treatment-admission rates for amphetamines are also reported for other Western States such as Idaho (25%), Nevada (25%), Arizona (18%), Oregon (16%) and Washington (14%). Additional data show that 36% of the people arrested in San Diego CA, and 23% of men arrested in Portland OR, had methamphetamine in their system upon arrest. A 2009 study by the RAND Corporation estimated the total US costs for methamphetamine at $23.4 billion.Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that physical exercise may be a useful technique to reduce methamphetamine use. Drs. Shawn M. Aarde and Michael A. Taffe used a preclinical model in which male rats are trained to press a lever to obtain intravenous infusions of methamphetamine. Prior work had shown that an extended interval (6 weeks) of voluntary activity on a running wheel could reduce cocaine self-administration in laboratory rats. The investigators now report that running wheel access in only the 22 hours prior to the test session is sufficient to significantly reduce the amount of methamphetamine self-administered. …

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Ancient nomads spread earliest domestic grains along Silk Road: Findings push back earliest known East-West interaction by 2,000 years

Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.”Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia,” said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.”Ancient wheat and broomcorn millet, recovered in nomadic campsites in Kazakhstan, show that prehistoric herders in Central Eurasia had incorporated both regional crops into their economy and rituals nearly 5,000 years ago, pushing back the chronology of interaction along the territory of the ‘Silk Road’ more than 2,000 years,” Frachetti said.The study, to be published April 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, establishes that several strains of ancient grains and peas had made their way across Eurasia thousands of years earlier than previously documented.While these crops have been known to exist much earlier in ancient China and Southwest Asia, finding them intermingled in the Bronze Age burials and households of nomadic pastoralists provides some of the earliest concrete signs for east-west interaction in the vast expanse of Eurasian mountains and the first botanical evidence for farming among Bronze Age nomads.Bread wheat, cultivated at least 6,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, was absent in China before 2500 B.C. while broomcorn millet, domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, is missing in southwest Asia before 2000 B.C. This study documents that ancient grains from eastern China and soutwest Asia had made their way to Kazakhstan in the center of the continent by 2700-2500 B.C. (nearly 5,000 years ago).”This study starts to rewrite the model for economic change across Eurasia,” said first author Robert Spengler, PhD, a paleoethnobotanist and research associate in Arts & Sciences at WUSTL.”It illustrates that nomads had diverse economic systems and were important for reshaping economic spheres more generally.”Findings are based on archaeobotanical data collected from four Bronze Age pastoralist campsites in Central Eurasian steppe/mountains: Tasbas and Begash in the highlands of Kazakhstan and Ojakly and Site 1211/1219 in Turkmenistan.”This is one of the first systematic applications of archaeobotany in the region, making the potential for further future discovery very exciting,” Spengler said.Frachetti and a team of WUSTL researchers led the on-site excavations, working closely with archaeologists based in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Italy. Spengler conducted the paleoethnobotany laboratory work at WUSTL, under the directorship of Gayle J. Fritz, PhD, professor of archaeology and expert in human-plant relationships.”Finding this diverse crop assemblage at Tasbas and Begash illustrates first evidence for the westward spread of East Asian and Southwest Asian crops eastward, and the surprise is that it is nomads who are the agents of change,” Frachetti said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. The original article was written by Gerry Everding. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Relaxed blood pressure guidelines cut millions from needing medication

New guidelines that ease the recommended blood pressure could result in 5.8 million U.S. adults no longer needing hypertension medication, according to an analysis by Duke Medicine researchers.The findings are the first peer-reviewed analysis to quantify the impact of guidelines announced in February by the Eighth Joint National Committee. In a divisive move, the committee relaxed the blood pressure goal in adults 60 years and older to 150/90, instead of the previous goal of 140/90.Blood pressure goals were also eased for adults with diabetes and kidney disease.”Raising the target in older adults is controversial, and not all experts agree with this new recommendation,” said lead author Ann Marie Navar-Boggan, a cardiology fellow at Duke University School of Medicine. “In this study, we wanted to determine the number of adults affected by these changes.”Researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, in collaboration with McGill University, published their results online March 29, 2014, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, to coincide with the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington, D.C.Researchers used 2005-2010 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The database included more than 16,000 participants with blood pressure measurements.Based on the study sample, the researchers determined that the proportion of U.S. adults considered eligible for hypertension treatment would decrease from 40.6 percent under the old guidelines to 31.7 percent under the new recommendations.In addition, 13.5 million adults — most of them over the age of 60 — would no longer be classified in a danger zone of poorly controlled blood pressure, and instead would be considered adequately managed. This includes 5.8 million U.S. adults who would no longer need blood pressure pills if the guidelines were rigidly applied.”The new guidelines do not address whether these adults should still be considered as having hypertension,” Navar-Boggan said. “But they would no longer need medication to lower their blood pressure.”According to the study, one in four adults over the age of 60 is currently being treated for high blood pressure and meeting the stricter targets set by previous guidelines.”These adults would be eligible for less intensive blood pressure medication under the new guidelines, particularly if they were experiencing side effects,” Navar-Boggan said. “But many experts fear that increasing blood pressure levels in these adults could be harmful.””This study reinforces how many Americans with hypertension fall into the treatment ‘gray zone’ where we don’t know how aggressive to treat and where we urgently need to conduct more research” said Eric D. …

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Preoperative PET cuts unnecessary lung surgeries in half

New quantitative data suggests that 30 percent of the surgeries performed for non-small cell lung cancer patients in a community-wide clinical study were deemed unnecessary. Additionally, positron emission tomography (PET) was found to reduce unnecessary surgeries by 50 percent, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.PET imaging prior to surgery helps stage a patient’s disease by providing functional images of tumors throughout the body, especially areas where cancer has spread, otherwise known as metastasis. Few studies have been able to pin down exactly what impact preoperative PET has on clinical decision-making and resulting treatment. Preliminary review of the data from this long-term, observational study of an entire community of veterans was inconclusive about the utility of PET, but after a more thorough statistical analysis accounting for selection bias and other confounding factors, the researchers were able to conclude that PET imaging eliminated approximately half of unnecessary surgeries.”It has become standard of care for lung cancer patients to receive preoperative PET imaging,” said Steven Zeliadt, PhD, lead author of the study conducted at VA Puget Sound Health Care System and associate professor for the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. “The prevailing evidence reinforces the general understanding within the medical community that PET is very useful for identifying occult metastasis and that it helps get the right people to surgery while avoiding unnecessary surgeries for those who would not benefit.”For this study, researchers reviewed newly diagnosed non-small lung cancer patients who received preoperative PET to assess the real-life effectiveness of PET as a preventative measure against unnecessarily invasive treatment across a community of patients. A total of 2,977 veterans who underwent PET during disease staging from 1997 to 2009 were included in the study. Of these, 976 patients underwent surgery to resect their lung cancer. During surgery or within 12 months of surgery, 30 percent of these patients were found to have advanced-stage metastatic disease, indicating an unnecessary surgery.Interestingly, the use of PET increased during the study period from 9% to 91%. Conventional multivariate analyses was followed by instrumental variable analyses to account for unobserved anomalies, such as when patients did not undergo PET when it would have been clinically recommended to do so. This new data has the potential to change policy and recommendations regarding the use of oncologic PET for more accurate tumor staging.”We will likely build more quality measures around this research so that preoperative PET is more strongly recommended to improve the management of care for these patients,” added Zeliadt.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Society of Nuclear Medicine. …

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What singing fruit flies can tell us about quick decisions

You wouldn’t hear the mating song of the male fruit fly as you reached for the infested bananas in your kitchen. Yet, the neural activity behind the insect’s amorous call could help scientists understand how you made the quick decision to pull your hand back from the tiny swarm.Male fruit flies base the pitch and tempo of their mating song on the movement and behavior of their desired female, Princeton University researchers have discovered. In the animal kingdom, lusty warblers such as birds typically have a mating song with a stereotyped pattern. A fruit fly’s song, however, is an unordered series of loud purrs and soft drones made by wing vibrations, the researchers reported in the journal Nature. A male adjusts his song in reaction to his specific environment, which in this case is the distance and speed of a female — the faster and farther away she’s moving, the louder he “sings.”While the actors are small, the implications of these findings could be substantial for understanding rapid decision-making, explained corresponding author Mala Murthy, a Princeton assistant professor of molecular biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. Fruit flies are a common model for studying the systems of more advanced beings such as humans, and have the basic components of more complex nervous systems, she said.The researchers have provided a possible tool for studying the neural pathways behind how an organism engaged in a task adjusts its behavior to sudden changes, be it a leopard chasing a zigzagging gazelle, or a commuter navigating stop-and-go traffic, Murthy said. She and her co-authors created a model that could predict a fly’s choice of song in response to its changing environment, and identified the neural pathways involved in these decisions.”Here we have natural courtship behavior and we have this discovery that males are using information about their sensory environment in real time to shape their song. That makes the fly system a unique model to study decision-making in a natural context,” Murthy said.”You can imagine that if a fly can integrate visual information quickly to modulate his song, the way in which it does that is probably a very basic equivalent of how a more complicated animal solves a similar problem,” she said. “To figure out at the level of individual neurons how flies perform sensory-motor integration will give us insight into how a mammalian brain does it and, ultimately, maybe how a human brain does it.”Aravi Samuel, a Harvard University professor of neuroscience who studies the brain and behavior using roundworms and fruit fly larvae, said that the researchers conducted the kind of “rigorous” behavioral analysis that is essential to understanding the brain’s circuitry.”Neuroscience isn’t just making electrical recordings of circuits or finding molecules that affect circuit properties,” said Samuel, who is familiar with the research but had no role in it. “It also is about understanding the behavior itself, from sensory input to motor output. …

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Reintroduction experiments give new hope for plant on brink of extinction

A critically endangered plant known as marsh sandwort (Arenaria paludicola) is inching back from the brink of extinction thanks to the efforts of a UC Santa Cruz plant ecologist and her team of undergraduate students.Ingrid Parker, the Langenheim professor of plant ecology and evolution at UC Santa Cruz, got involved in the marsh sandwort recovery effort at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Although it used to occur all along the west coast, from San Diego to Washington state, this wetland plant with delicate white flowers had dwindled to one population in a boggy wetland in San Luis Obispo County. Federal biologists wanted to reintroduce the plant to other locations, but they weren’t sure where it would be likely to thrive.”When you have a species that’s only known from one place, how do you figure out where it could live? We had very little information about its biology that would allow us to predict where it might be successful,” Parker said.Her team, which included undergraduate students and greenhouse staff at UCSC as well as USFWS biologists, propagated cuttings from the last remaining wild population, studied the plant’s tolerance for different soil conditions in greenhouse experiments, and conducted field experiments to identify habitats where the plant could thrive. They published their findings in the April issue of Plant Ecology (available in advance online).Surprisingly, the plants tolerated a much wider range of soil moisture and salinity than biologists had expected. “This really brought home to me the importance of experiments to help guide conservation,” Parker said. “The one place where this species is found in San Luis Obispo County is a freshwater bog where the plants are in standing water. There are so few places like that left in California, we wondered if that’s the only kind of place where it can grow. Instead we found that it actually does better without standing water.”In addition, field studies showed the importance of small-scale habitat variations, according to first author Megan Bontrager. …

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Looking to have fun during March madness? Don’t bet on it!

Planning to enter an office pool during this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament? Be careful. You might not enjoy the games very much if you bet, says a researcher at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.”Predictions become more aversive when the outcome of the event is highly uncertain,” as in the upcoming basketball tournament, says Stephen M. Nowlis, PhD, the August A. Busch, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Marketing.Nowlis is co-author of a 2008 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research titled “The Effect of Making a Prediction About the Outcome of a Consumption Experience on the Enjoyment of That Experience.”The current popularity of office pools, spoiler message boards and online betting sites seems to suggest that the act of prediction increases enjoyment of watching a sporting event.However, in a series of four experiments, Nowlis found that consumers who make predictions about uncertain events experience significantly less enjoyment while observing the events than those who don’t make predictions.”We thought the opposite would be true,” Nowlis says. “We explain our results in terms of anticipated regret. In fact, removing the source of anticipated regret eliminates the negative effect of prediction on enjoyment.”Even if you think you are absolutely sure you know the team that will win this year’s tournament, you may still not have much fun if you lay down some money.”One compelling finding from our studies was that, among those who made predictions, participants who were correct enjoyed the event no more than those who were incorrect,” Nowlis says.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. …

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Negative effects of joining a gang last long after gang membership ends

Imagine two children, both with the exact same risk factors for joining a gang. As teenagers, one joins a gang, the other doesn’t. Even though the first teen eventually leaves the gang, years later he or she is not only at significantly higher risk of being incarcerated and receiving illegal income, but is also less likely to have finished high school and more likely to be in poor health, receiving government assistance or struggling with drug abuse.University of Washington researchers have found that joining a gang in adolescence has significant consequences in adulthood beyond criminal behavior, even after a person leaves the gang. The research is published in the American Journal of Public Health.”It turns out that, like violence, gang membership is as much a public health problem as a criminal justice problem,” said Karl Hill, study co-author and research associate professor in the School of Social Work. “Joining a gang in the teens had enduring consequences on health and well-being.”The Seattle Social Development Project, which was founded by study co-author J. David Hawkins, followed 808 fifth-grade students from 18 elementary schools serving high-crime neighborhoods in Seattle, beginning in 1985. More than half of the students came from low-income families. Participants were interviewed every year until the age of 18, then every three years until the age of 33.According to lead author Amanda Gilman, a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, joining a gang served as a turning point, creating consequences that cascaded into other areas of life for years afterward.”Very few of them reported still being in a gang at age 27. The vast majority had left a long time ago, but the consequences stuck with them long-term,” Gilman said. Researchers used 23 risk factors to calculate a child’s propensity for joining a gang, and then compared 173 youth who had joined a gang with 173 who did not but showed a similar propensity for doing so, so that the only difference between the two groups was gang membership. …

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Lou is coming to Washington for ADAO’s Asbestos Awareness Conference

I am going to Washington! Below is the recent announcement released in a statement by Linda Reinstein, Co-Founder/CEO at Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)’I am so excited to announce that Lou Williams will be attending the 10th Annual ADAO International Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Asbestos Awareness Conference on April 4 – 6, 2014 in DC!!! ADAO sends our sincere thanks to the Asbestos Safety & Eradication Council for funding Lou’s flight to Washington, DC. Geoff Fary and Peter Tighe. Together, change is happening and I believe in magic!!♥ Ellen TunkelrottLou Williams shared Linda Reinstein’s photo.A big thank you to Linda Reinstein, ADAO and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council in Australia for believing in me – I am just so so thrilled to be coming and to …

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Shocking behavior of a runaway star: High-speed encounter creates arc

Roguish runaway stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters shock the galaxy, creating arcs, as seen in a newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.In this case, the speedster star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905 to astronomers. It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second). But what really makes the star stand out in this image is the surrounding, streaky red glow of material in its path. Such structures are called bow shocks, and they can often be seen in front of the fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy.Bow shocks form where the magnetic fields and wind of particles flowing off a star collide with the diffuse, and usually invisible, gas and dust that fill the space between stars. How these shocks light up tells astronomers about the conditions around the star and in space. Slow-moving stars like our sun have bow shocks that are nearly invisible at all wavelengths of light, but fast stars like Kappa Cassiopeiae create shocks that can be seen by Spitzer’s infrared detectors.Incredibly, this shock is created about 4 light-years ahead of Kappa Cassiopeiae, showing what a sizable impact this star has on its surroundings. (This is about the same distance that we are from Proxima Centauri, the nearest star beyond the sun.)The Kappa Cassiopeiae bow shock shows up as a vividly red color. The faint green features in this image result from carbon molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in dust clouds along the line of sight that are illuminated by starlight.Delicate red filaments run through this infrared nebula, crossing the bow shock. Some astronomers have suggested these filaments may be tracing out features of the magnetic field that runs throughout our galaxy. …

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Whole genome analysis speeds up: 240 full genomes in 50 hours

Although the time and cost of sequencing an entire human genome has plummeted, analyzing the resulting three billion base pairs of genetic information from a single genome can take many months.In the journal Bioinformatics, however, a University of Chicago-based team — working with Beagle, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers devoted to life sciences — reports that genome analysis can be radically accelerated. This computer, based at Argonne National Laboratory, is able to analyze 240 full genomes in about two days.”This is a resource that can change patient management and, over time, add depth to our understanding of the genetic causes of risk and disease,” said study author Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, the A. J. Carlson Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine.”The supercomputer can process many genomes simultaneously rather than one at a time,” said first author Megan Puckelwartz, a graduate student in McNally’s laboratory. “It converts whole genome sequencing, which has primarily been used as a research tool, into something that is immediately valuable for patient care.”Because the genome is so vast, those involved in clinical genetics have turned to exome sequencing, which focuses on the two percent or less of the genome that codes for proteins. This approach is often useful. An estimated 85 percent of disease-causing mutations are located in coding regions. But the rest, about 15 percent of clinically significant mutations, come from non-coding regions, once referred to as “junk DNA” but now known to serve important functions. If not for the tremendous data-processing challenges of analysis, whole genome sequencing would be the method of choice.To test the system, McNally’s team used raw sequencing data from 61 human genomes and analyzed that data on Beagle. They used publicly available software packages and one quarter of the computer’s total capacity. …

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Embrace the cold: Evidence that shivering and exercise may convert white fat to brown

A new study suggests that shivering and bouts of moderate exercise are equally capable of stimulating the conversion of energy-storing ‘white fat’ into energy-burning ‘brown fat’.Around 50 g of white fat stores more than 300 kilocalories of energy. The same amount of brown fat could burn up to 300 kilocalories a day.Endocrinologist Dr Paul Lee, from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, recently undertook the study at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, funded as an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow.His work uncovered a way that fat and muscle communicate with each other through specific hormones — turning white fat cells into brown fat cells to protect us against cold.Dr Lee showed that during cold exposure and exercise, levels of the hormone irisin (produced by muscle) and FGF21 (produced by brown fat) rose. Specifically, around 10-15 minutes of shivering resulted in equivalent rises in irisin as an hour of moderate exercise. In the laboratory, irisin and FGF21 turn human white fat cells into brown fat cells over a period of six days. The study is now published in Cell Metabolism.We are all born with supplies of brown fat around our necks, nature’s way of helping to keep us warm as infants. Until only a few years ago, it was thought to vanish in early infancy, but we now know that brown fat is present in most, if not all, adults. Adults with more brown fat are slimmer than those without.”Excitement in the brown fat field has risen significantly over last few years because its energy-burning nature makes it a potential therapeutic target against obesity and diabetes,” said Dr Lee.”White fat transformation into brown fat could protect animals against diabetes, obesity and fatty liver. Glucose levels are lower in humans with more brown fat.”In the current study, Lee set out to understand the mechanism underlying the activation of brown fat. It was already known that cold temperatures stimulate brown fat, but was unclear how the body signals that message to its cells.The body can sense and relay environmental changes to different organs via nerves and hormones. Being an endocrinologist, Lee investigated the hormones that are stimulated by cold environments.”When we are cold, we first activate our brown fat because it burns energy and releases heat to protect us. …

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Researchers discover rare new species of deep-diving whale

Researchers have identified a new species of mysterious beaked whale based on the study of seven animals stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the past 50 years.Beaked whales, a widespread but little-known family of toothed whales distantly related to sperm whales, are found in deep ocean waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf throughout the world’s oceans.”They are rarely seen at sea due to their elusive habits, long dive capacity and apparent low abundance for some species. Understandably, most people have never heard of them,” says international team leader, Dr Merel Dalebout, a visiting research fellow at UNSW.The study of the new species, Mesoplodon hotaula, is published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.The first specimen was a female found on a Sri Lankan beach more than 50 years ago.On 26 January 1963, a 4.5 metre-long, blue-grey beaked whale washed up at Ratmalana near Colombo. The then director of the National Museums of Ceylon, P.E.P (Paulus) Deraniyagala, described it as a new species, and named it Mesoplodon hotaula, after the local Singhala words for ‘pointed beak’.However, two years later, other researchers reclassified this specimen as an existing species, Mesoplodon ginkgodens, named for the tusk-like teeth of the adult males that are shaped like the leaves of a ginkgo tree.”Now it turns out that Deraniyagala was right regarding the uniqueness of the whale he identified. While it is closely related to the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, it is definitely not the same species,” says Dr Dalebout.The researchers used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to identify the new species from seven specimens found stranded in Sri Lanka, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands near Hawai’i, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.The new specimens are held by various institutions and groups, including the US Smithsonian National Museum in Washington DC, the Island Conservation Society in the Seychelles, and the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The genetic analyses were conducted as part of an international collaboration with the US NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State University.The researchers were able to get good quality DNA from tissue samples from only one specimen. For the others, they drilled the bones of the whales in order to analyse short fragments of ‘ancient DNA’ relying on techniques commonly used with old sub-fossil material from extinct species.The researchers also studied all other known beaked whale species to confirm the distinctiveness of Deraniyagala’s whale, including six specimens of the closely related, gingko-toothed beaked whale.”A number of species in this group are known from only a handful of animals, and we are still finding new ones, so the situation with Deraniyagala’s whale is not that unusual,” Dr Dalebout says.”For example, the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, first described in 1963, is only known from about 30 strandings and has never been seen alive at sea with any certainty. It’s always incredible to me to realise how little we really do know about life in the oceans. There’s so much out there to discover. “Over the last 10 years or so, two other new beaked whales have come to light; both through research in which Dr Dalebout was involved. In 2002, Mesoplodon perrini or Perrin’s beaked whale, was described from the eastern North Pacific, and in 2003, Mesoplodon traversii, the spade-toothed whale, was described from the Southern Ocean. …

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Protein to repair damaged brain tissue in MS identified

Vittorio Gallo, PhD,Director of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children’s National Health System, and other researchers have found a “potentially novel therapeutic target” to reduce the rate of deterioration and to promote growth of brain cells damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS). Current therapies can be effective in patients with relapsing MS, but have little impact in promoting tissue growth.The brain produces new cells to repair the damage from MS years after symptoms appear. However, in most cases the cells are unable to complete the repair, as unknown factors limit this process. In MS patients, brain inflammation in random patches, or lesions, leads to destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers called axons in the brain, and aids in transmission of signals to other neurons.In yesterday’s publication of Neuron, Gallo, who also is a professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), reported identifying a small protein that can be targeted to promote repair of damaged tissue, with therapeutic potential. The molecule, Endothelin-1 (ET-1), is shown to inhibit repair of myelin. Myelin damage is a hallmark characteristic of MS. The study demonstrates that blocking ET-1 pharmacologically or using a genetic approach could promote myelin repair.Repair of damaged MS plaques is carried out by endogenous oliogdendrocytle progenitor cells (OPCs) in a process called remyelination. Current MS therapy can be effective in patients with relapsing and remitting MS, but “have little impact in promoting remyelination in tissue,” Gallo said. Several studies have shown that OPCs fail to differentiate in chronic MS lesions. Targeting ET-1 is a process that involves identifying signals in cells that could promote lesion repair.”We demonstrate that ET-1 drastically reduces the rate of remyelination,” Gallo said. …

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Childhood depression may increase risk of heart disease by teen years

Children with depression are more likely to be obese, smoke and be inactive, and can show the effects of heart disease as early as their teen years, according to a newly published study by University of South Florida Associate Professor of Psychology Jonathan Rottenberg.The research, by Rottenberg and his colleagues at Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that depression may increase the risk of heart problems later in life. The researchers also observed higher rates of heart disease in the parents of adolescents that had been depressed as children. The research is published online in Psychosomatic Medicineand will be included in the medical journal’s February 2014 issue.”Given that the parents in this sample were relatively young, we were quite surprised to find that the parents of the affected adolescents were reporting a history of heart attacks and other serious events,” Rottenberg explained.Cardiologists and mental health professionals have long known a link exists between depression and heart disease. Depressed adults are more likely to suffer a heart attack, and if they do have a heart attack, it’s more likely to be fatal.However it was unclear when the association between clinical depression and cardiac risk develops, or how early in life the association can be detected. These findings suggest improved prevention and treatment of childhood depression could reduce adult cardiovascular disease.Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women- accounting for one in every four deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.During the study, Rottenberg and his colleagues followed up on Hungarian children who had participated in a 2004 study of the genetics of depression. The researchers compared heart disease risk factors — such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level, and parental history — across three categories of adolescents.The investigators surveyed more than 200 children with a history of clinical depression, as well as about 200 of their siblings who have never suffered from depression. They also gathered information from more than 150 unrelated children of the same age and gender with no history of depression.Rottenberg plans to conduct additional research in order to understand why depression early in life may put people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Further studies planned with the Hungarian group will also examine whether any early warning signs of heart disease are present as these adolescents move into young adulthood.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of South Florida (USF Health). The original article was written by Adam Freeman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Signs point to sharp rise in drugged driving fatalities

The prevalence of non-alcohol drugs detected in fatally injured drivers in the U.S. has been steadily rising and tripled from 1999 to 2010 for drivers who tested positive for marijuana — the most commonly detected non-alcohol drug — suggesting that drugged driving may be playing an increasing role in fatal motor vehicle crashes.To assess these trends researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined toxicological testing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System and found that of 23,591 drivers who were killed within one hour of a crash, 39.7% tested positive for alcohol and 24.8% for other drugs. While positive results for alcohol remained stable, the prevalence of non-alcohol drugs rose significantly from 16.6% in 1999 to 28.3% in 2010; for marijuana, rates rose from 4.2% to 12.2%. Findings are online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.This study is based on data from six U.S. states that routinely performed toxicological testing on drivers involved in fatal car crashes — California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.The results showed that alcohol involvement was more prevalent in men (43.6%) than in women (26.1%), but trends were stable for both sexes. In contrast, the substantial increase in the prevalence of marijuana was reported for all age groups and both sexes.”Although earlier research showed that drug use is associated with impaired driving performance and increased crash risk, trends in narcotic involvement in driver fatalities have been understudied,” said Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention. “Given the increasing availability of marijuana and the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, understanding the role of controlled substances in motor vehicle crashes is of significant public health importance.”Joanne Brady, a PhD candidate in epidemiology and the lead author of the study, notes that research from 2007 to 2013 shows an increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana in roadside surveys, as well as drivers involved in fatal crashes in in California and increased use by patients treated in Colorado healthcare settings. “The marked increase in its prevalence as reported in the present study is likely germane to the growing decriminalization of marijuana,” noted Ms. Brady. Over the last 17 years, 20 states and Washington, D.C. …

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Could Anti-Balding Drug Help Alcoholics Fight Cravings in Recovery?

Could Anti-Balding Drug Help Alcoholics Fight Cravings in Recovery? – Rehab Info Rehab InfoThe Most Trusted Rehab Referrals. Home»Blog›Could Anti-Balding Drug Help Alcoholics Fight Cravings in Recovery?Could Anti-Balding Drug Help Alcoholics Fight Cravings in Recovery?September 24th 2013 | By: Staff | Posted In: Drugs and Alcohol, Studies and ResearchA recent study completed by the researchers at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences discovered that 65 percent of male participants who took the drug Finasteride for baldness also reported that they drank less alcohol while on the drug. Finasteride disrupts particular hormones in the brain that are reportedly linked to the brain’s reaction to alcohol. This intriguing piece of information will likely lead to other studies that will investigate the success of Finasteride …

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Yoga accessible for the blind with new kinect-based program

Oct. 17, 2013 — In a typical yoga class, students watch an instructor to learn how to properly hold a position. But for people who are blind or can’t see well, it can be frustrating to participate in these types of exercises.Now, a team of University of Washington computer scientists has created a software program that watches a user’s movements and gives spoken feedback on what to change to accurately complete a yoga pose.”My hope for this technology is for people who are blind or low-vision to be able to try it out, and help give a basic understanding of yoga in a more comfortable setting,” said project lead Kyle Rector, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering.The program, called Eyes-Free Yoga, uses Microsoft Kinect software to track body movements and offer auditory feedback in real time for six yoga poses, including Warrior I and II, Tree and Chair poses. Rector and her collaborators published their methodology in the conference proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGACCESS International Conference on Computers and Accessibility in Bellevue, Wash., Oct. 21-23.Rector wrote programming code that instructs the Kinect to read a user’s body angles, then gives verbal feedback on how to adjust his or her arms, legs, neck or back to complete the pose. For example, the program might say: “Rotate your shoulders left,” or “Lean sideways toward your left.”The result is an accessible yoga “exergame” — a video game used for exercise — that allows people without sight to interact verbally with a simulated yoga instructor. Rector and collaborators Julie Kientz, a UW assistant professor in Computer Science & Engineering and in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and Cynthia Bennett, a research assistant in computer science and engineering, believe this can transform a typically visual activity into something that blind people can also enjoy.”I see this as a good way of helping people who may not know much about yoga to try something on their own and feel comfortable and confident doing it,” Kientz said. “We hope this acts as a gateway to encouraging people with visual impairments to try exercise on a broader scale.”Each of the six poses has about 30 different commands for improvement based on a dozen rules deemed essential for each yoga position. Rector worked with a number of yoga instructors to put together the criteria for reaching the correct alignment in each pose. The Kinect first checks a person’s core and suggests alignment changes, then moves to the head and neck area, and finally the arms and legs. …

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NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft embarks on historic journey into interstellar space

Sep. 12, 2013 — NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our sun are still evident. A report on the analysis of this new data, an effort led by Don Gurnett and the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, is published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.”Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind’s historic leap into interstellar space,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we’ve all been asking — ‘Are we there yet?’ Yes, we are.”Voyager 1 first detected the increased pressure of interstellar space on the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles surrounding the sun that reaches far beyond the outer planets, in 2004. Scientists then ramped up their search for evidence of the spacecraft’s interstellar arrival, knowing the data analysis and interpretation could take months or years.Voyager 1 does not have a working plasma sensor, so scientists needed a different way to measure the spacecraft’s plasma environment to make a definitive determination of its location. A coronal mass ejection, or a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields, that erupted from the sun in March 2012 provided scientists the data they needed. When this unexpected gift from the sun eventually arrived at Voyager 1’s location 13 months later, in April 2013, the plasma around the spacecraft began to vibrate like a violin string. …

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