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New insight gained in muscular dystrophy

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            HEALTH TIPS - Wednesday, March 4, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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     New insight gained in muscular dystrophy

BOSTON, -- U.S. scientists have identified a 
key genetic component of, and possible therapeutic target 
for, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. The disease is the most 
common form of muscular dystrophy, affecting about 1 in 
3,000 males each year. It is an X-linked recessive disease, 
in which mutations in the dystrophin gene causes progressive
and degenerative muscle weakness. Bruce Spiegelman of the 
Dana Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues using a mouse 
model found a protein called PGC-1alpha activates the 
expression of several genes that are aberrantly inactivated 
in the disease. By inducing PGC-1alpha expression in 
transgenic mice, the scientists were able to improve 
disease symptoms. "These data clearly show that experimental
elevation of PGC-1 alpha has therapeutic promise in an 
animal model of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy," said 
Spiegelman. "We hope this will lead eventually to 
therapeutics for a terrible disease for which there is no 
effective treatment at the present time." The research 
appears in the journal Genes & Development.

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     Combined cervical cancer screening studied

STANFORD, Calif. -- A U.S. study finds screening women for 
cervical cancer and providing preventive treatment during 
the same visit is feasible in developing nations. Dr. Paul 
Blumenthal of the Stanford University School of Medicine 
said if the technique initiated in Ghana can be scaled up 
effectively, it could help prevent one of the leading causes
of cancer death in women in developing nations. In developed
countries such as the United States, women receive a regular
Pap smear to detect early signs of cervical cancer. Those 
with abnormalities are called back for treatment. But that 
approach requires a degree of infrastructure not often 
available in developing countries. In the technique used in 
the study, a doctor or nurse applies acetic acid to a 
woman's cervix. Precancerous areas stand out as white 
regions against the pink, normal cervical tissue. The doctor
or nurse can then freeze the white regions, effectively 
eliminating the abnormality and preventing future cancer.
That single-visit procedure requires less infrastructure 
than other methods of detecting cervical cancer. Blumenthal,
an acting professor of obstetrics and gynecology, is the 
lead author of the study appearing in the April issue of the
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


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       Insight gained into melatonin production

POHANG, South Korea,  -- A South Korean research team has 
determined how the production of the hormone melatonin is 
coordinated with the body's natural sleep/wake cycles. 
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and 
helps regulate the human body's circadian rhythms. Normally,
melatonin production is inhibited by light and enhanced by 
darkness, usually peaking in the middle of the night. 
Melatonin's expression pattern is mimicked by a protein 
called AANAT, which is a key enzyme in the melatonin bio-
synthesis pathway. In research led by Kim Kyong-tai of 
Pohang University, scientists discovered the mechanism of 
rhythmic control of AANAT mRNA translation, and, thereby, 
melatonin synthesis. The research is explained in the 
journal Genes & Development.

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Copyright 2007 by UPI. All rights reserved. 

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