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A breath might soon foretell disease

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, February 21, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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        Neuromuscular disease study gives new info

AUGUSTA, -- U.S. scientists have discovered if a muscle cell
fails to produce the protein beta-catenin, its neuron doe-
sn't develop or function properly. Medical College of Geor-
gia researchers said their finding provides some of the 
first proof that in vertebrates retrograde communication -- 
from the target cell back to the neuron -- is essential.
"Previously, we thought signals flow mainly from neuron to 
muscle. This shows they can be produced from muscle," said 
Dr. Lin Mei, the Medical College of Georgia's chief of deve-
lopmental neurobiology. "This is some of the first clear 
genetic evidence that when you disturb something in the 
muscle, you have a nerve problem." Mei's team knocked out 
beta-catenin in the muscle cells of a developing mouse. As a
result, nerve terminals were misaligned. Release of neuro-
transmitters was impaired and the mice died prematurely. 
"Theoretically the finding is very important in that it 
supports the retrograde hypothesis," said Mei. "We believe 
there is a retrograde signal downstream of beta-catenin or 
regulated by beta-catenin. If you don't have beta-catenin in
the muscle, that signal may be missing and motor neurons are
not happy." The research is detailed online in the journal 
Nature Neuroscience.           

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           A breath might soon foretell disease

BOULDER, Colo., -- U.S. scientists have created a technique 
that analyzes a person's breath to detect trace compounds 
that might provide early warning signs of disease. A team 
led by Jun Ye, a physicist at JILA -- a joint facility of 
the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the 
University of Colorado at Boulder -- demonstrated the opti-
cal technique for simultaneously identifying tiny amounts of
a broad range of molecules in the breath, potentially enab-
ling a fast, low-cost screening tool for disease. "It is 
exciting to imagine the potential of analyzing all major 
biomarkers in one's breath at once," said Ye. "For example, 
nitric oxide can indicate asthma but it also appears in 
breath with many other lung diseases, including chronic 
obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis and bronch-
iectasis. "However," he added, "if we simultaneously moni-
tor nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, hydro-peroxide, nitrites,
nitrates, pentane and ethane, all important biomarkers for 
asthma, we can be much more certain for a definitive diag-
nosis of this important disease." The research is reported 
in the journal Optics Express.
  
  
         New craniosynostosis surgery is effective

COLUMBIA, Mo., -- U.S. scientists have found a minimally 
invasive surgical technique to treat craniosynostosis -- 
the premature fusion of an infant's skull -- is effective.
Surgeons have used one of two procedures to correct the pro-
blem. One procedure was to make an incision from ear to ear,
strip back the infant's scalp and reshape the skull by 
breaking the fused bones. The other procedure required a 
small incision near the point of the fused skull plates.
In the new study, University of Missouri School of Medicine 
researchers found the minimally invasive technique is just 
as effective and results in a quicker recovery time than the
old technique. With craniosynostosis, two or more of the 
skull plates fuse prematurely, restricting growth in the 
head for the brain. "Instead of exposing the skull as surg-
eons do with the old technique, we are able to make two 
small incisions and remove a small strip of bone," said 
Assistant Professor Dr. Usiakimi Igbaseimokumo, who said the
procedure is not only successful in correcting the problem 
but is also as effective than the older procedure in the 
long term. Igbaseimokumo presented the findings during a 
recent meeting of the International Society of Pediatric 
Neurosurgeons.

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            Nightime light linked to cancer

HAIFA, Israel, -- An Israeli study said women who live in 
well-lighted neighborhoods are more likely to develop breast
cancer than those who live in darker areas. The findings of 
the study, which combined satellite images with local breast
cancer statistics, support the theory that too much light at
night raises the risk of breast cancer by interfering with 
the production of melatonin, The Washington Post reported 
Wednesday. The findings are published in the online version 
of the journal Chronobiology International. Lead author Itai
Kloog of the University of Haifa said satellite data showing
how much light was emitted from neighborhoods throughout 
Israel was overlaid with local statistics on cases of breast
cancer. The researchers found the breast cancer rate in 
areas with average night lighting to be 37 percent higher 
than in communities with the lowest amount of light. Epid-
emiological studies of nurses, flight attendants and others
who work at night have found breast cancer rates 60 percent 
above normal and an arm of the World Health Organization 
recently decided to classify shift work as a "probable 
carcinogen," the newspaper said. 


         Music helps stroke patients recover

HELSINKI, Finland, -- Researchers in Finland found that 
when stroke patients listen to music for a couple of hours 
a day, their verbal memory and focused attention recover 
better. The study, published in the journal Brain, also said
stroke patients who listened to music had a more positive 
mood than patients who did not listen to anything or who 
listened to audio books. First author Teppo Sarkamo, a doc-
toral student at the University of Helsinki and at the 
Helsinki Brain Research Centre, focused on patients who had
suffered a stroke. The researchers recruited 60 patients to 
the single-blind, randomized, controlled trial from March 
2004 to May 2006. They worked with the patients as soon as 
possible after they had been admitted to the hospital. Most 
of the stroke patients had problems with movement and with 
cognitive processes, such as attention and memory. Some 
were assigned to listening to music -- pop, classical, jazz 
or folk -- some to audio books and one group was the cont-
rol. All received standard stroke rehabilitation. Three 
months after the stroke, verbal memory improved by 60 per-
cent in music listeners, 18 percent in audio book listeners 
and 29 percent in the control group, the study said. 
  
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        Biomarkers may guide lung cancer treatment

LOS ANGELES, -- U.S. scientists have discovered biomarkers 
that predict which patients with advanced non-small cell 
lung cancer will better respond to specific treatments. The 
researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center 
said the biomarkers predict which such patients will respond
to a combination treatment of the anti-inflammatory drug 
Celebrex and the growth factor receptor blocker Tarceva. The
scientists said their finding might help oncologists person-
alize treatment, prescribing drugs they know patients will 
respond to and sparing them from therapies that won't work.
Dr. Steven Dubinett, senior author of the study, said the 
findings, if confirmed, would provide personalized drug com-
bos as an alternative therapy. "We need good predictors of 
response to targeted therapy in lung cancer so individual 
patients receive the specific therapy that targets the part-
icular molecular abnormalities of their tumors," said 
Dubinett. The research appears in the Journal of Thoracic 
Oncology.      
    
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