High-quality early childhood development programs with health care and nutritional components can help prevent or delay the onset of adult chronic disease, according to a new study by Nobel laureate economist James Heckman and researchers at the University of Chicago, University College London and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina.Based on more than three decades of data from the landmark Abecedarian early childhood program in North Carolina, the study shows that children who participated in the intervention combining early education with early health screenings and nutrition had much lower levels of hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity in their mid-30s than a control group that did not participate in early learning program. The results are published in the March 28 issue of the journal Science.”Prior to this research, we had indications that quality early childhood development programs helped produce better health later in life,” said Heckman. “Abecedarian shows that investing in early learning programs that offer health components can boost education, health and economic outcomes. It also offers a different way to fight costly adult chronic diseases: Investing early in the development of children to build the knowledge and self-regulation necessary to prevent chronic disease and help them lead healthy, productive lives.”The Carolina Abecedarian Project, one of the oldest and most cited early childhood programs, was designed to test whether a stimulating early childhood environment could prevent developmental delays among disadvantaged children. The study involved 111 children from low-income families, born in or near Chapel Hill, N.C. between 1972 and 1977. It also included a health care and nutritional component. Children received two meals and an afternoon snack at an early learning center and were offered daily health screenings and periodic medical checkups. Participants who received this intervention, as well as those in the control group who did not, have been followed for more than 30 years to determine the effectiveness of the early intervention program.This is the first time their health outcomes have been analyzed. Researchers found that men in the treatment group had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and were less likely to develop Stage I hypertension. …Read more
Patients undergoing meniscal allograft transplantation (MAT) surgery require an additional operation approximately 32% of the time, but overall see a 95% success rate after an average five-year follow-up, according to new research released today at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Specialty Day.”Our research shows a positive mid to long-term outcome for patients who require MAT surgery,” commented lead author Dr. Frank McCormick from Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute in Fort Lauderdale Florida, and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “While 64 patients out of the 172 we followed needed additional surgery, the overall survival of transplanted grafts suggests we can confidently recommend this procedure moving forward.”The study took place from January 2003 to April 2011, with patients receiving the same surgical technique as well as the same 4-6 week rehab. Follow-up surgeries included removal of tissue, equipment, and in some cases a revision of the original surgery.”A healthy meniscus is critical to a fully functioning knee, and so also key to leading an active lifestyle,” noted McCormick. “Our latest data shows that patients with damaged knees can certainly recover and return to form with the right kinds of treatment.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Read more
In humans, a tiny area in the center of the retina called the fovea is critically important to viewing fine details. Densely packed with cone photoreceptor cells, it is used while reading, driving and gazing at objects of interest. Some animals have a similar feature in their eyes, but researchers believed that among mammals the fovea was unique to primates — until now.University of Pennsylvania vision scientists report that dogs, too, have an area of their retina that strongly resembles the human fovea. What’s more, this retinal region is susceptible to genetic blinding diseases in dogs just as it is in humans.”It’s incredible that in 2014 we can still make an anatomical discovery in a species that we’ve been looking at for the past 20,000 years and that, in addition, this has high clinical relevance to humans,” said William Beltran, an assistant professor of ophthalmology in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and co-lead author of the study with Artur Cideciyan, research professor of ophthalmology in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.”It is absolutely exhilarating to be able to investigate this very specialized and important part of canine central vision that has such unexpectedly strong resemblance to our own retina,” Cideciyan added.Additional coauthors included Penn Vet’s Karina E. Guziewicz, Simone Iwabe, Erin M. Scott, Svetlana V. Savina, Gordon Ruthel and senior author Gustavo D. Aguirre; Perelman’s Malgorzata Swider, Lingli Zhang, Richard Zorger, Alexander Sumaroka and Samuel G. Jacobson; and the Penn School of Dental Medicine’s Frank Stefano.The paper was published in the journal PLOS ONE.The word “fovea” comes from the Latin meaning “pit,” owing to the fact that in humans and many other primates, the inner layers of the retina are thin in this area, while the outer layers are packed with cone photoreceptor cells. It is believed that this inner layer thinning allows the foveal cone cells privileged access to light.It is known that dogs have what is called an area centralis, a region around the center of the retina with a relative increase in cone photoreceptor cell density. …Read more
Complex heritable traits are not only determined by changes in the DNA sequence. Scientists from the University of Groningen Bioinformatics Centre, together with their French colleagues, have shown that epigenetic marks can affect traits such as flowering time and architecture in plants. Furthermore, these marks are passed on for many generations in a stable manner. Their results were published in Science on the 6th of February 2014. It seems that a revision of genetics textbooks is now in order.We’ve all been taught that DNA is the physical foundation of heredity. Our genes are spelled out in the four famous letters A, T, C and G, which together form the genetic code. A single letter change in this code can lead to a gene ceasing to function or failing to work properly.The fact that the functioning of our genes is also affected by epigenetic marks has been known for decades. For example, the nucleotide cytosine (the C in the genetic code) can be changed into a methylcytosine. This cytosine methylation, which is one type of epigenetic mark, is typically associated with repression of gene activity.Epigenetic inheritance’While in mammals epigenetic marks are typically reset every generation, in plants no such dramatic resetting takes place. This opens the door to epigenetic inheritance in plants: epigenetic changes that are acquired in one generation tend to be stably passed on to the next generation’, explains Frank Johannes, assistant professor at the GBIC and co-lead scientist for the Science study.Johannes’s French colleagues have produced inbred strains of the model plant Arabidopsis, in which the epigenetic marks vary between strains although the DNA sequence is almost identical. …Read more
Since the end of 2011 when the scientific work of Professor Don Poldermans was first scrutinized there has been controversy in the medical world about the use of beta blockers in perioperative care.The recent publication — and retraction for proper peer reviewing and revision — in the European Heart Journal (EHJ) of a paper by Professors Cole and Francis from Imperial College, questioning whether beta blockers in perioperative care could lead to a mortality increase brought the topic back into the public eye.The EHJ has published an editorial today addressing these questions.In the editorial, Professors Thomas Lscher, Bernard Gersh, Ulf Landmesser and Frank Ruschitzka highlight, among other points, that jumping to conclusions may be particularly dangerous for both physicians and patients. In this respect, they pointed out that:The meta analysis is mainly driven by the POISE trial that used very high dosages of metoprolol immediately before surgery with further uptitration, which is not recommended by the ESC Guidelines Different dosing and starting time of betablockade before surgery may importantly determine outcome A registry published in 2013 in JAMA supports the use of perioperative blockade, at least in non-vascular surgery Until today, only one of Prof Poldermans’ manuscripts has been retracted, so the validity of his large beta blocker DECREASE trial published in the NEJM remains uncertain (3) A proper clinical trial is needed in order to assess whether the use of beta blockers starting at a low dose several days before surgery — as has been recommended by the ESC Guidelines of 2009 — might be beneficial or harmful The ESC Task Force led by Professors Steen Dalby Kristensen and Juhani Knuuti, is carefully revising all existing evidence and will present a new version of the ESC Guidelines on “Pre-operative Cardiac Risk Assessment and Perioperative Cardiac Management in Non-Cardiac Surgery” by this summer. These will try to answer two major issues: 1 Should beta blockers be continued in patients scheduled for surgery who are already on them? 2 Should beta blockers be started in patient undergoing surgery who have never received them previously? Whether beta blockers in perioperative care are protective, safe or harmful continues to be a subject of debate. The new ESC Guidelines will try to clarify some of the controversial issues. As stated jointly by ACC/AHA/ESC (4), in the meantime, the current position is that “the initiation of beta blockers in patients who will undergo non-cardiac surgery should not be considered routine, but should be considered carefully by each patient’s treating physician on a case-by-case basis.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by European Society of Cardiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Read more
Aug. 29, 2013 — More children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are experiencing remission of their symptoms, thanks to new biological therapies, but the remission is not well-understood. A new study published today in Arthritis Research & Therapy provides the first genomic characterization of remission in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis patients.”It turns out that even though these children in remission appear to be perfectly normal and symptom-free, their immune systems are still perturbed,” says James N. Jarvis, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the study’s lead author.The study notes that 35-50 percent of children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis achieve remission while being treated with the standard treatments, methotrexate or methotrexate in combination with biopharmaceuticals.”Our study provides some insight into why so many children in remission experience disease flares even when their disease has been stable for weeks or months, and why 50 percent of children who try to come off medication experience disease flares within two to six months,” Jarvis says.The research was conducted at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center by Jarvis and co-authors, and was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and the Arthritis Foundation, which continues to fund Jarvis’ research in this area. Some members of the team, including Jarvis, now work at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC).The study compared gene expression profiles from two independent cohorts of 14 patients each, all in remission from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, to those of 15 healthy controls. The patients were on two different medication regimens. Patients were followed every two to three months for at least a year.”Remission, of course, is our goal,” says Jarvis. “I like to say it’s hard to get somewhere when you don’t know where ‘somewhere’ is. My lab is trying to build a ‘genomic roadmap’ for what remission is and exactly how we get there. That way, we can find a way to get these children into remission more quickly and for longer periods.”The new study confirms preliminary research by Jarvis, suggesting that remission experienced by patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis on medication is not a “return to normal” but is, instead, a distinct biologic state. …Read more
Aug. 21, 2013 — It turns out that alligators do not live on meat alone. Neither do Nile crocodiles. A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that the American alligator and a dozen other crocodile species enjoy an occasional taste of fruit along with their normal meat-heavy diets of mammals, birds, and fish.Share This:The study gives new insight into the possible role that crocodilians, some of which have large territories, may play in forest regeneration through digesting and passing seeds from fruits.The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Zoology. Authors include: Steven Platt of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Ruth M. Elsey of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; Hong Liu of Florida International University and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden; Thomas R. Rainwater of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; James C. Nifong of the University of Florida; Adam E. Rosenblatt and Michael R. …Read more
July 12, 2013 — University of Melbourne researchers have developed an efficient system to coat tiny objects, such as bacterial cells, with thin films that assemble themselves which could have important implications for drug delivery as well as biomedical and environmental applications.Share This:Published today in the journal Science, Professor Frank Caruso from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The University of Melbourne and his team have developed a new strategy to coat microscopic materials, leading to a new-generation particle system with engineered properties. This is expected to underpin advances in the delivery of therapeutics in the areas of cancer, vaccines, cardiovascular disease and neural health.The capsules can be engineered to degrade under different conditions, providing opportunities for the timed release of substances contained inside the capsules.”Nanoengineered capsules are attracting much attention as drug carriers, as they have the potential to improve the delivery and effectiveness of drugs while reducing their side effects,” he said”Our engineered particle system can be assembled rapidly from naturally occurring materials (minerals and nutrients) with specific physical and chemical properties, making it a versatile platform for various applications.” Professor Caruso is an Australian Research Council Australian Laureate Fellow with interests in engineered materials, polymer science, biomolecular engineering and molecular recognition. He has been named in the Top 20 Material Scientists in the world by Thomson Reuters for citation impact in the last decade.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:H. Ejima, J. J. Richardson, K. Liang, J. …Read more
June 26, 2013 — Ingestion of commonly encountered nanoparticles at typical environmental levels is unlikely to cause overt toxicity, according to US researchers. Nevertheless there is insufficient evidence to determine whether chronic exposures could lead to subtle alterations in intestinal immune function, protein profiles, or microbial balance.Writing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, researchers have compared existing laboratory and experimental animal studies pertaining to the toxicity of nanoparticles most likely to be intentionally or accidentally ingested. Based on their review, the researchers determined ingestion of nanoparticles at likely exposure levels is unlikely to cause health problems, at least with respect to acute toxicity. Furthermore, in vitro laboratory testing, which often shows toxicity at a cellular level, does not correspond well with in vivo testing, which tends to show less adverse effects.Ingrid Bergin in the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Frank Witzmann in the Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, at Indiana University School of Medicine, in Indianapolis, explain that the use of particles that are in the nano size range (from 1 billionth to 100 billionths of a meter in diameter, 1-100 nm, other thereabouts) are finding applications in consumer products and medicine. These include particles such as nano-silver, which is increasingly used in consumer products and dietary supplements for its purported antimicrobial properties. Nanoparticles can have some intriguing and useful properties because they do not necessarily behave in the same chemical and physical ways as non-nanoparticle versions of the same material.Nanoparticles are now used as natural flavor enhancers in the form of liposomes and related materials, food pigments and in some so-called “health supplements.” They are also used in antibacterial toothbrushes coated with silver nanoparticles, for instance in food and drink containers and in hygienic infant feeding equipment. They are also used to carry pharmaceuticals to specific disease sites in the body to reduce side effects. Nanoparticles actually encompass a very wide range of materials from pure metals and alloys, to metal oxide nanoparticles, and carbon-based and plastic nanoparticles. Because of their increasing utilization in consumer products, there has been concern over whether these small scale materials could have unique toxicity effects when compared to more traditional versions of the same materials.Difficulties in assessing the health risks of nanoparticles include the fact that particles of differing materials and shapes can have different properties. Furthermore, the route of exposure (e.g. …Read more
May 12, 2013 — The gardener’s best friend, the earthworm, is great at protecting leaves from being chomped by slugs, suggests research in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Ecology. Although they lurk in the soil, they seem to protect the plants above ground. Increasing plant diversity also decreases the amount of damage slugs do to individual plants.
Spanish slugs (Arion vulgaris) are among the top 100 worst alien species in Europe and are considered a pest almost everywhere. A team of scientists from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna investigated what effect the presence of earthworms and plant diversity would have on the amount of damage these slugs caused.
Using large incubators to simulate grassland environments the researchers could regulate the diversity of plant species and time the introduction of earthworms and slugs. They found that the presence of worms increased nitrogen content of plants and reduced the number of leaves damaged due to slugs by 60%. Yet when they compared leaf area damaged the researchers found slugs also ate 40% less at high plant diversity than at low.
Explaining their results Dr Johann Zaller, who led the study, said, “Our results suggest that two processes might be going on. Firstly, earthworms improved the plant’s ability to protect itself against slugs perhaps through the build-up of nitrogen-containing toxic compounds. Secondly, even though these slugs are generalists they prefer widely available food and in high diverse ecosystems slugs eat less in total because they have to switch their diets more often since plants of the same species are less available. Therefore gardeners are to help protect earthworms by increasing plant diversity in the garden in order to keep slug damage low. In order to elucidate the mechanisms behind these complex interactions, all parts of an ecosystem need to be investigated.”
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- Johann G Zaller, Myriam Parth, Ilona Szunyogh, Ines Semmelrock, Susanne Sochurek, Marcia Pinheiro, Thomas Frank and Thomas Drapela. Herbivory of an invasive slug is affected by earthworms and the composition of plant communities. BMC Ecology, 2013 (in press) [link]
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