Insights into the Nuanced Workings of Short-term Memory

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 142011

A 22-year old woman known as ‘HC’ who has had amnesia since birth has shown scientists at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute that she is impaired when it comes to retaining unfamiliar faces, but when she is shown a photo of someone familiar, like Hollywood celebrity Paris Hilton, she can more easily recall it within a few seconds. The findings were similar when HC was asked to remember familiar words, like ‘direction’, compared to less familiar words, like ‘fledgling’.

HC was deprived of oxygen in her first week of life, and as a result, the hippocampus developed poorly. It is only about half the size that it should. The hippocampus plays an important role in helping us organize both our short-term and long-term memory. Therefore, HC often has trouble
recalling events from even a few years ago.

Researchers noted that the hippocampus is indeed crucial for forming short-term memories, but
only if the material that is being remembered is brand new. If the item
is familiar to the person then there is no problem. The brain uses other parts of the brain to store the memory.

The study has been posted online in the science journal ‘Neuropsychologia’.


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Eliminating Regulatory Protein Could Cure Diabetes

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 132011

Their research revealed a new and previously unsuspected role for nuclear receptor corepressor (NCoR), a transcriptional coregulatory protein found in a wide variety of cells.

“Different transcription factors stimulate genes, turning them on and off, by bringing in co-activators or co-repressors,” said Jerrold M. Olefsky, MD, associate dean for Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego and senior author of the study.

“All transcriptional biology is a balance of these co-activators and co-repressors,” he noted.

Olefsky and colleagues focused their attention on NCoR, which was known to be a major co-repressor of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor gamma or PPAR-gamma, a ubiquitous protein that regulates fatty acid storage and glucose metabolism, but which also appeared to act on other receptors as well.

The scientists created a knockout mouse model whose adipocytes or fat cells lacked NCoR.

Though bred to be obese and prone to diabetes, Olefsky said the glucose tolerance improved in the NCoR knockout mice.

Moreover, they displayed enhanced insulin sensitivity in liver, muscle and fat, and decreased systemic inflammation.

Resistance to insulin, a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism, is a hallmark of diabetes, as is chronic inflammation.

“When NCoR was deleted, insulin sensitivity in the whole animal increased dramatically compared to normal obese mice, which remained insulin resistant. The sensitivity occurred not just in adipocytes, but in all cells,” added Olefsky.

The finding has been published in the November 11 issue of the journal Cell.


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Novel Technique May Help Autistic Kids Develop Speech

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 132011

Known as Auditory-Motor Mapping Training (AMMT), the novel treatment developed by researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) builds on the observations that children with autism, who typically struggle with communication, as well as social interactions, often respond positively to music.

“Communication deficits are one of the core symptoms of autism,” Catherine Wan, first author of the study, said.

“It has been estimated that up to 25 percent of all children with autism are nonverbal, but surprisingly, not much is out there treatment-wise that directly helps these children to speak,” she said.

The AMMT treatment uses a combination of singing (intonation) and motor activities to strengthen a network of brain regions that is thought to be abnormal in children with autism.

“We developed AMMT, in part, because another intonation-based therapy, known as Melodic Intonation Therapy, had been successful in helping stroke patients with aphasia recover their ability to speak,” Gottfried Schlaug, senior author of the study, said.

After eight weeks of AMMT treatment (five days per week), the six children in the proof-of-concept study, who ranged in age from six to nine and were previously completely nonverbal, were able to approximate whole words and phrases.

The children could also generalize their speech production to words that were not practiced during the therapy.

“Noticeable improvements in speech were seen as early as two weeks into the treatment,” Wan said.

“More importantly, the improvements lasted as long as two months after the treatment sessions ended,” she added.

The study has been published in the journal PLoS One.


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Intensive Therapy Could Reduce Kidney Disease In Patients With Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes No Responses »
Nov 132011

This finding comes from more than two decades of research on preventing life-shortening complications of type 1 diabetes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the longitudinal study. Results will be published online Nov. 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented Nov. 12 at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week in Philadelphia.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and several collaborating institutions in the United States and Canada examined the effects of early, intensive glucose-lowering therapy on glomerular filtration rates (GFR). This measurement estimates how much blood passes each minute through tiny filters in the kidneys. A GFR blood test checks the kidney’s ability to rid the body of a muscle-generated waste product, creatinine. If the kidneys can’t filter fast enough, the substance builds up in the blood.

A low GFR is a dangerous sign of existing diabetic kidney disease that can progress to kidney failure, also called end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis or kidney transplantation. Moreover, a low GFR also can contribute to the heart and blood vessel complications of diabetes, the researchers explained.

People with type 1 diabetes are prone to kidney disease and related complications resulting in disability and premature death. Until this study, no interventions for this population have been shown to prevent impaired GFR.

According to Dr. Ian de Boer, UW assistant professor of medicine, Division of Nephrology, once GFR is impaired, progression to end-stage kidney disease and major blood vessel disease precipitating heart attacks or stroke “occurs at unacceptably high rates, even with optimal medical management.”

“This underscores the need to find ways to prevent impaired glomerular filtration rates among persons with type 1 diabetes,” said de Boer.

de Boer is a UW Medicine kidney specialist at the Kidney Research Institute. He led the group that researched the effects of intensive diabetes therapy, compared to traditional diabetes treatment, on the development of impaired GFR.

The project draws on continuous studies over 28 years of 1,441 participants with type 1 diabetes mellitus. These patients originally enrolled between 1983 to 1989 in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). At the time, the participants were between 13 and 39 years of age. The enrollees either showed no small blood vessel complications of their diabetes, or had only mild signs.

de Boer explained, “The DCCT was a multicenter clinical trial in diabetes mellitus that examined the effects of intensive therapy aimed at lowering blood sugar levels as close to the normal range as safely possible.”

Participants randomly assigned to intensive therapy had three or more insulin injections a day, or used an insulin pump. Those in conventional therapy had the goal of preventing symptoms of low blood sugar and high blood sugar with one or two daily insulin injections.

On average, participants in the intensive diabetes therapy group achieved a hemoglobin A1c of 7.3 percent, compared with 9.1 percent for participants in the conventional therapy group. Hemoglobin A1c is a quarterly blood sugar level test that indicates how well diabetes is being controlled.

When the DCCT ended in 1993, all participants were encouraged to join a follow-up, the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications Study (EDIC). Conventional therapy patients were taught intensive therapy, and those on intensive therapy were encouraged to continue intensive treatment. All returned to their own physicians for diabetes care.

By 2009, the mean age of the participants was 50 years and their mean duration of diabetes was 28 years. At that point the blood level of creatinine was measured in 85 percent of all participants (1, 222 people).

Examining results collected each year from 1983 through 2009, the researchers found that 70 participants developed impaired GFR: 24 from the initial intensive therapy group, and 46 from the group that had started out on conventional therapy.

This represented a reduced risk of developing impaired GFR by 50 percent over a total median participant follow-up of 22 years, they reported.

“This effect was only evident more than 10 years after the patients were randomized in the initial Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, beyond the period of the trial’s intervention,” the researchers noted.

In the present study, end-stage kidney disease developed in 8 participants in the intensive diabetes therapy group and 16 in the conventional therapy group. This represented a 51 percent reduction in risk that was not statistically significant, possibly due to the small numbers of participants reaching kidney failure.

The researchers added that the study results reported today reinforce findings of other studies on the importance of early, intensive control of blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetes. Previous research has shown benefits in reducing retina damage, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers stressed that this study did not look at people with type 2 diabetes, and cautioned that risks and benefits may differ in type 2 diabetes or among individuals with more advanced diabetes complications.


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Protein That Hastens Breast Cancer Spread Identified

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 132011

A team of researchers led by Richard Kremer from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) suggest that a specific protein plays a key role in the progression of the disease outside of the initial tumor area.

They showed that this particular target called parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP), present at high levels in cancers, is involved in key stages of breast cancer initiation, progression and metastatic spread.

“We are hoping for a significant effect on the prevention of breast cancer recurrence, growth and development by using a strategy to decrease the production of that particular protein,” Kremer said.

To better understand the role of PTHrP in cancer development, researchers eliminated the production of the hormone from breast cells using a strategy called “conditional knockout” and then studied the progression of the tumor.

“The results showed that without the presence of PTHrP in the breast, even before the tumor developed, a reduction of 80 to 90 per cent in the growth of the tumor was observed,” he said.

“The removal of this hormone in the breast and breast tumors block not only the growth of the tumors but also its spread to different organs,” Kremer said.

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).


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Regular Exercise, Less Computer Use Improves Sleep in Teens

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 132011

The study of nearly 15,000 high school students found that those who spent at least an hour engaging in physical activity daily were significantly more likely to report “sufficient” sleep-eight hours or more per night-than students who were inactive.

And teens who use a computer recreationally for more than two hours a day are less likely to get sufficient sleep than students who spend less time using a computer.

Earlier research has had similar findings, but this is the first large, nationally representative study to connect physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep in high school students, claimed Kathryn Foti, M.P.H., a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health and lead author of the paper.

“The message for parents is that encouraging daily physical activity and limiting computer use outside of what’s necessary for schoolwork, can help students get the sleep they need,” she said.

Judith Owens, M.D., director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. stated, “It is a vital issue.”

“Insufficient sleep increases the risk of obesity, affects academic performance and has implications for safety. Chronic sleep restriction affects the immune system, the developing brain and the cardiovascular system,” she added.

The analysis also linked extensive TV watching-four or more hours daily-to insufficient sleep.

The study appeared in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


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Two-Year-Old Speaks for the First Time and Tells Parents She Loves Them

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 122011

South Yorkshire’s Bronte Cassell was born 25 weeks premature and weighed just one pound. A number of medical complications meant that doctors had to fit in tubes to help her breathe. Bronte spent her first two years communicating with just hand signals or mouthing the words.

The tubes were recently removed by the doctors and the first words that she spoke were to her father and mother, “I love you daddy. I love you, mummy.”

“We just looked at each other and cried. It was the first time we had ever heard her really speak”, Bronte’s mother Hellen told the Daily Mail.


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Ground-breaking Study into the Causes of High Blood Pressure

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 122011

The study, published in the academic journal Hypertension, analysed genetic material in human kidneys in a search for genes that might contribute to high blood pressure. The findings open up new avenues for future investigation into the causes of high blood pressure in humans.

The study identified key genes, messenger RNAs and micro RNAs present in the kidneys that may contribute to human hypertension. It also uncovered two microRNAs that contribute to the regulation of renin – a hormone long thought to play to part in controlling blood pressure.

Although scientists have long known that the kidneys play a role in regulating blood pressure, this is the first time that key genes involved in the process have been identified through a large, comprehensive gene expression analysis of the human kidneys. It is also the first time that researchers have identified miRNAs that control the expression of the hormone renin.

The scientists studied tissue samples from the kidneys of 15 male hypertensive patients (patients with high blood pressure) and 7 male patients with normal blood pressure, and compared their messenger RNA (mRNA) and micro RNA (miRNA).

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded molecule that helps in the production of protein from DNA. Genetic information is copied from DNA to mRNA strands, which provide a template from which the cell can make new proteins. MicroRNA (miRNA) is a very small molecule that helps regulate the process of converting mRNA into proteins.

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Teens can Reduce Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease Via Fiber-Rich Diet

Diabetes No Responses »
Nov 122011

Researchers from the Michigan State University said that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduced the risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and other chemicals.

The researchers conducted the study on more than 2,000 teenagers in the United States between 12 to 19 years of age. The researchers tested for what is known as metabolic syndrome: set of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, large waistline, low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and high levels of fat in the blood.

The researchers found that approximately 6 percent of the teenagers had the metabolic syndrome. However the number went to nine percent among children who ate the least amount of fiber in their food compared to 3 percent who ate the most amount.

Lead researcher Joe Carlson was quick to point out that eating a fiber rich diet did not mean that teenagers could gorge on food items containing high levels of saturated fat. “We know if you eat a lot of saturated fat, or trans fat, it tends to raise (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol”, he said.


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From 366 Pounds to 191 Pounds, Hear About Jay's Remarkable Feat

Medindia News No Responses »
Nov 122011

11 months after this, Jay is slimmer at 191 pounds. He achieved this by changing his diet, exercise and lifestyle.

“It started with a diet. My diet was horrible,” Wornick said. “I changed everything. I went to whole foods, fresh fruit and lean meats. I cut out all the fast food, cut out all the pizza and all the soda. That was what my diet mainly consisted of before.”

“Chicken, turkey, vegetables, lots of fruits,” Wornick said of the foods that helped him lose the weight. “I drink no regular sodas. Every morning I eat a big breakfast and my meals get smaller as the day goes on.”

“She came to me with the New Year’s resolution and something just clicked,” he said on “GMA.” “I said, “You know what, it’s now or never. Let’s do it. If it doesn’t work then nobody can blame me for not trying,’ but I’d never really tried.”

“I did it all on my own. No personal trainer, no nutritionist, no surgery, no pills. That stuff is unnecessary,” he said. “If you want to put in the hard work, if you want to put in the dedication, it will work for you,” Jay said


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