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Genetic link to schizophrenia discovered

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          HEALTH TIPS - Thursday, February 22, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"

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          Brain's role in menopause to be studied

AUSTIN, Texas, -- The U.S. National Institute on Aging is 
funding a five-year, $1.4 million research project to study 
how the brain might control the timing of menopause. 
University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy research-
er Andrea Gore will attempt to gain a deeper understanding 
of the brain's role in reproductive failure that might lead 
to the creation of new therapies. "For too many years, the 
focus in menopause research has primarily been on the 
ovaries," Gore said. "Although there is no question that 
the ovaries are key to the menopausal process, it was puz-
zling that there was little interest in whether the brain 
may also have a role. "After all," she added, "the brain 
drives reproductive function during the rest of the life 
cycle, including puberty and adulthood, and the brain is a 
target organ for the major ovarian hormone, estrogen." She 
noted many menopausal complaints -- hot flashes, depression 
and memory issues -- that prompt women to seek treatment 
are neurological in origin. Gore said her research will 
have clinical implications for postmenopausal hormone 
replacement therapy and for identifying non-hormonal 
approaches to treating menopausal symptoms. There also 
are clinical implications for potentially expanding the 
reproductive lifespan.


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         Genetic link to schizophrenia discovered

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- A joint U.S.-Japanese study suggests 
gene mutations governing a key brain enzyme make people 
susceptible to schizophrenia. The research by scientists 
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Japan's
Riken Brain Science Institute might lead to new treatments 
for the psychiatric illness that afflicts an estimated 51 
million people worldwide. By studying genetically engineer-
ed mice and the genetic makeup of schizophrenic individuals,
 the MIT and Japanese scientists say they pinpointed the 
PPP3CC gene and other genes in the early growth response 
gene family (specifically, EGR3) as likely suspects for 
causing the disease. Those genes are critical in the sig-
naling pathway for the brain enzyme calcineurin, which is 
prevalent in the central nervous system and plays a role 
in many neuronal functions whose disturbances would result 
in the disorganized thinking, attention deficits, memory 
and language problems that characterize schizophrenia. The 
researchers confirmed the PPP3CC gene is involved in 
diagnosed schizophrenia in Caucasian, African-American and 
Japanese individuals. EGR3 involvement was confirmed 
through a separate test. The study is reported in the 
early online edition of the Proceedings of the National 
Academy of Sciences.

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         Lung cancer drug also fights brain cancers

DURHAM, N.C., -- U.S. scientists say a relatively new type 
of drug that shrinks cancerous tumors by cutting off their 
blood supply can slow the growth of brain cancer. Duke 
University Medical Center researchers say their findings
marks the first time the drug Avastin has been tested 
against the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. 
The drug, whose chemical name is bevacizumab, is used to 
treat lung and colorectal cancers. The researchers tested 
the effectiveness of Avastin in conjunction with a standard 
chemotherapy agent in patients with recurrent cancerous 
brain tumors called gliomas. They found the two drugs 
together halted tumor growth up to twice as long as compar-
ative therapies. Although gliomas remain incurable in near-
ly all cases, the combined drug therapy might extend life 
and preserve physical and mental function longer for 
patients suffering from the deadly cancer, the researchers 
said. "These results are exciting because of the possible 
implications for a patient population that currently has 
the poorest possible prognosis going into treatment -- 
those with malignant brain tumors that have recurred after 
initial treatment," said Dr. James Vredenburgh, lead 
researcher in the study. The findings appear in the 
journal Clinical Cancer Research.

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