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Nanoemulsion vaccines show promise

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, February 28, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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         Paramedics in subway stations considered

TORONTO, -- The Toronto Transit Commission is planning a 
pilot project to have paramedics stationed at subway stat-
ions for safety and to decrease train delays. Rick Corna-
cchia, deputy general manager of subway operations, told 
the Toronto Star such a system exists in Hong Kong, and if 
an experiment planned for one central station works, could 
be expanded to 10 stations. Toronto's subway system has 
seen a 23 percent increase in delays over the last year, 
and sick passengers were the biggest factor, the commission 
said. TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said about 1 million 
people ride the subway each weekday. "We'd let people know 
it is there and encourage people, if they're feeling ill, 
to get off and talk to (paramedics) on scene," he told the 
Star. He said the cost of the program has yet to be worked 
out, but plans are to start the pilot program later this 
year, the report said.
           
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           Nanoemulsion vaccines show promise

ANN ARBOR, Mich., -- U.S. scientists reported a new vaccin-
ating technique involving nanoemulsions made up of 200-nano-
meter droplets is showing increasing promise. University of
Michigan researchers said the high-energy, oil-in-water 
emulsions used against a variety of infectious are placed in
a person's nose, rather than injected with a needle. Two new
University of Michigan studies show the nanoemulsions pro-
duce a strong immune response against smallpox and the human
immunodeficiency virus. Nanoemulsion vaccines -- developed 
at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and 
the Biological Sciences -- are a mixture of soybean oil, 
alcohol, water and detergents emulsified into ultra-small 
particles. They are combined with part or all of a disease-
causing microbe to trigger the body's immune response. "The 
two studies show the nanoemulsion platform is capable of 
developing vaccines from very diverse materials," said 
Dr. James Baker Jr., a professor of internal medicine. "We 
used whole virus in the smallpox vaccine. In the HIV vac-
cine, we used a single protein. We were able to promote an 
immune response using either source." The latest research 
results appear in the journal Clinical Vaccine Immunology.
    
 
         Brain molecule linked to problem drinking

BETHESDA, Md., -- U.S. and British researchers have discov-
ered a brain molecule known as neurokinin 1, or NK1, plays 
a critical role in stress-related drinking. Dr. Ting-Kai Li,
director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and 
Alcoholism, which led the study, said the findings "advance
our understanding of the link between stress and alcohol 
dependence and raise the prospect of a new class of medic-
ations for treating alcoholism." In pre-clinical studies, 
the researchers found mice genetically engineered to lack 
NK1 receptors consumed much less alcohol than did normal 
mice with fully functional receptors. In a later study, it 
was shown a compound that blocks NK1 receptors reduced 
alcohol craving among alcohol-dependent people who were 
highly anxious. The blocking compound also reduced the 
exaggerated sensitivity to negative stimuli commonly obs-
erved in alcoholics, and restored their response to pleas-
urable stimuli, the scientists said. The researchers said 
the findings suggest compounds that block NK1 receptors 
might have significant potential for the treatment of alco-
holism and other addictions. The research that included 
scientists from University College London and Lilly Research
Laboratories appears in the online journal Science Express.

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         Scientists engineer nerve-cell tissue

PHILADELPHIA, -- U.S. scientists have demonstrated living 
human nerve cells can be engineered into a network that 
might be used to repair nervous system damage. University 
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers created a 
three-dimensional neural network -- a mini nervous system 
in culture -- that can be transplanted en masse, said Pro-
fessor Douglas Smith, director of the school's Center for 
Brain Injury and Repair. Smith's group placed neurons from
rat dorsal root ganglia on nutrient-filled plastic plates. 
Axons sprouted from the neurons on each plate and connected 
with neurons on the other plate. The plates were slowly 
pulled apart during several days, creating long tracts of 
living axons. The cultures were embedded in a collagen 
matrix and implanted into a rat model of spinal cord injury.
After four weeks the researchers found the geometry of the 
construct was maintained and the neurons at both ends and 
all the axons spanning the neurons survived transplantation.
More important, the researchers said, axons at the ends of 
the construct extended through the collagen barrier to 
connect with the host tissue as a sort of nervous tissue 
bridge. The findings are reported in the Journal of Neuro-
surgery.    
  
  
        Human brain in creative thought is studied

BETHESDA, Md.,-- A U.S. study has found when people are 
engaged in creative thought, a brain area involved in mon-
itoring one's activities shuts down. National Institute on 
Deafness and Other Communication Disorders-funded research-
ers discovered when jazz musicians improvise, a large region
of the brain involved in monitoring performance -- the dors-
olateral prefrontal cortex -- shuts down, while a small re-
gion involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts -- the 
medial prefrontal cortex -- becomes highly activated. The 
researchers propose those patterns are likely key indicators
of a brain engaged in highly creative thought. "The ability 
to study how the brain functions when it is thinking creat-
ively has been difficult for scientists because of the many 
variables involved," said Dr. James Battey Jr., NIDCD dir-
ector. "Through some creative thinking of their own, these 
researchers designed a protocol in which jazz musicians 
could play a keyboard while in … a functional MRI scanner. 
And in doing so, they were able to pinpoint differences in 
how the brain functions when the musicians are improvising 
as opposed to playing a simple melody from memory." The 
study by Drs. Charles Limb, now with Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity, and Allen Braun of the NICDC, appears in the online 
journal PLoS One.

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        Study: CO2 can cause air pollution deaths

STANFORD, Calif.,  -- A U.S. study suggests rising 
carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere, although 
not considered a classic air pollutant, can cause respira-
tory failure. CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels has 
been linked to sea level changes, snowmelt, disease, 
heat stress, severe weather and ocean acidification. But it 
hasn't been identified as the cause of significant numbers 
of deaths. Noting that increasing levels of CO2 cause temp-
erature and water vapor content to rise, Mark Jacobson and 
colleagues at Stanford University used photochemistry to 
determine if such CO2 increases also cause increases in 
ground-level ozone concentrations that can harm lung fun-
ction. Jacobson found each 1-degree Celsius rise in temper-
ature can increase U.S. annual air pollution deaths by about
1,000, with approximately 40 percent of such deaths result-
ing from elevated ground-level ozone concentrations. The 
rest are likely from particles, which would increase due to
CO2-enhanced stability, humidity and biogenic feedbacks, he 
said. The researchers said many of the deaths would occur 
in urban populations subject to smog, such as some areas of
California. Extrapolating U.S. deaths to global population 
yields about 22,000 excess deaths expected worldwide each 
year. The research is published in the journal Geophysical 
Research Letters.      
    
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