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Publication: Health Tips Weekly
Alzheimer's diagnosis brings relief

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, March 20, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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        Study: Alzheimer's diagnosis brings relief

ST. LOUIS, -- U.S. scientists have discovered patients and 
caregivers experience relief, not anxiety or depression, 
when told of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. John 
Morris and Professor Brian Carpenter of Washington Univers-
ity in St. Louis studied 90 individuals who came to the Uni-
versity's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center for an evalua-
tion. Of those, 69 percent were diagnosed with Alzheimer's 
disease. Patients and caregivers were interviewed before and
after the diagnosis. "The major finding is that both pati-
ents and their families feel relief, not increased anxiety, 
upon learning the diagnosis," said Morris, who noted anxiety
among both patients and caregivers decreased substantially, 
and no significant changes in depression were noted. Carp-
enter said the study was conducted to generate data to con-
vince physicians that most people don't become depressed, 
upset or suicidal. "So, this fear that (physicians) have 
about telling them and disturbing them is probably not leg-
itimate for most people," added Carpenter. Although nobody 
wants to hear a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, Morris 
said at least having the diagnosis allows people to make 
plans for the future, including treatment as appropriate.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics 
Society.

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         Kid's brain tumor signaling system ID'd

MEMPHIS, -- U.S. medical scientists have identified the sig-
naling system that halts the growth of medulloblastoma 
tumors -- a childhood brain cancer. Scientists at St. Jude 
Children's Research Hospital discovered proteins BMP2, BMP4 
and BMP7 inhibit the growth of medulloblastoma tumors, while
inducing malignant cells to develop into normal neurons. The
researchers say their findings might lead to safer treat-
ments for the rare, but often fatal, childhood brain tumor.
"We think we have identified a pathway that can be used to 
prevent tumor formation and a potential target for therapy,"
said Martine Roussel of the St. Jude Department of Genetics 
and Tumor Cell Biology. A report on the work appears in the 
journal Genes & Development.
  
  
         Some viral bacteria exhibit codon bias

PHILADELPHIA, -- U.S. biologists studying the genomes of 
viruses infecting the bacteria E. coli, P. aeruginosa and 
L. lactis found many of them exhibit codon bias. The resear-
chers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Univers-
ity said codon bias is the tendency to preferentially encode
a protein with a particular spelling. They analyzed patterns
of codon usage across 74 bacteriophages and their findings 
extend the translational theory of codon bias to the viral 
kingdom, demonstrating the viral genome is selected to obey 
the preferences of its host. "The host bacterium is exerting
a strong evolutionary pressure on the virus," said Joshua 
Plotkin, lead author and an assistant professor at Penn. 
"This happens because a virus must hijack the machinery of 
its host in order to reproduce. We are seeing that viruses 
are forced to adopt the particular codon choices preferred 
by the bacterium they infect. "Like a bee and a flower, an 
example of co-evolution between two large organisms, the 
same fundamental biological processes operate between two 
small organisms, as reflected in their genome sequences," 
Plotkin added. The study that included Grzegorz Kudla at 
Penn and Julius Lucks and David Nelson at Harvard appeared
in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

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         Gene that can disrupt heart rhythm is ID'd

LOS ANGELES, -- A U.S.-led international study has described
for the first time the mechanisms by which variants of the 
gene CAPON can disrupt normal heart rhythm. The researchers 
from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity and the China Medical University and Hospital in Taiwan
said CAPON, until recently, wasn't suspected of existing in 
heart tissue or playing a role in heart function. The study,
conducted in guinea pigs, not only confirmed CAPON naturally
exists in the heart's ventricles but also showed CAPON int-
eracts with a signaling molecule in heart muscle to influ-
ence signaling pathways and modify cell-to-cell interactions
that control the heart's electrical currents. The research, 
led by Dr. Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai 
Heart Institute, appeared in the March 12 issue of the Pro-
ceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  
  
           Women's use of microbicides studied

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A study has identified which U.S. women 
are most likely to use a microbicide to prevent sexual tran-
smission of the human immunodeficiency virus. Researchers at
Miriam Hospital and Brown University in Providence, R.I., 
found women who have used protective methods in the past, 
and those with casual sexual partners, were more willing to 
use a microbicide compared with their peers. "The results 
may seem to be an obvious finding but they are important 
because science has very little direct evidence of what 
characteristics and situations in women's lives would make 
them more likely to want to use a microbicide to prevent HIV
infection," said psychologist Kathleen Morrow, the study's 
lead author and an assistant professor at Brown. Morrow and 
her team designed the "Willingness to Use Microbicides" 
scale. The scale consists of a series of questions about 
particular situations, such as, "Would you have wanted to 
use a microbicide the last time you had sex with your part-
ner?" The scale also includes product-related questions, 
such as, "If a microbicide costs about as much as a male 
condom, would you have used it?" The research was detailed 
in the November issue of the journal Healthy Psychology.

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            Reverse gene therapy is developed

EVANSTON, Ill., -- U.S. scientists have reversed gene ther-
apy procedures to develop an experimental technique for pre-
venting and treating disease linked with genetic defects.
In gene therapy, a working gene is inserted into a cell to 
replace a faulty or absent gene. But now a team led by Nor-
thwestern University Assistant Professor of physics Adilson 
Motter has developed a counterintuitive approach -- the tar-
geted removal of genes to restore function in cells with 
genetic defects, such as mutations. The study grew from 
Motter's work on the U.S. power grid -- a complex system 
that has many similarities with biological systems. After 
the largest power outage in U.S. history occurred in 2003, 
experts determined the event could have been reduced or av-
oided by instigating small intentional blackouts in the 
system during the initial hours of instability. "And the 
same could be valid in biology, where a defective gene may 
trigger a cascade of 'failures' along the cellular network,"
said Motter. "Our recent research shows that what's true in 
power networks is also true in biological networks. Inflic-
ting a small amount of damage can control what otherwise 
would be much more significant damage." The study appears 
online in the journal Molecular Systems Biology.         
    
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