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Study identifies cause of glaucoma

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, April 3, 2008 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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           Study identifies cause of glaucoma

HOUSTON, -- U.S. scientists said they have discovered a rec-
eptor's role as a cause of certain eye diseases, including 
glaucoma. The researchers at the Texas A&M University's Ins-
titute of Biosciences and Technology said their finding 
might lead to development of new eye disease treatments. "G-
protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) regulate a variety of 
physiological functions, from vision, olfaction, taste and 
reproductive biology to cardiovascular functions," said Pro-
fessor Mingyao Liu, senior author of the study. "GPCRs are 
the largest membrane receptor family in the human genome. 
Our study focuses on Gpr48, a new hormone receptor in ani-
mals and humans." The scientists found Gpr48 plays an impor-
tant role in anterior segment development and is also key in
various physiological functions throughout the body. Dele-
tion of the Gpr48 receptor in mice resulted in various forms
of anterior segment dysgenesis, including microphthalmia 
(small eyes), iris hypoplasia (underdeveloped iris), iridio-
corneal angle malformation (irregular angle of the iris and 
cornea), cornea dysgenesis (clouding of the cornea) and cat-
aracts. Future research could validate Gpr48 as a potential 
therapeutic target, Liu said. The research is to appear in a
future issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of 
Sciences and is currently available at the journal's Web 


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         First database of oral microbiome created

BETHESDA, Md., -- U.S. government researchers said they have
started the first comprehensive database of the microbes 
that inhabit human mouths. The scientists from the National 
Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research -- part of the
National Institutes of Health -- are compiling the first 
comprehensive database of the approximately 600 distinct 
micro-organisms known to live in the mouth. The researchers 
said their free online compendium called the Human Oral Mic-
robiome Database provides detailed biological entries for 
each species and an extensive catalog of the thousands of 
genes that the microbes express. "The HOMD fills a critical 
research need," said NIDCR director Dr. Lawrence Tabak. "The
oral microbiome is extremely rich in data, and HOMD becomes 
the essential search engine for scientists to view and retr-
ieve this information, generate novel hypotheses, make comp-
utational discoveries and ultimately develop more biologic-
ally sound therapies to control oral diseases." The site, 
managed by scientists at the Forsyth Institute in Boston and
King's College London in Britain is located at 

           New way to film blood vessels created

UPPSALA, Sweden, -- Swedish scientists have developed a new 
method of filming and also directing blood vessel cells so 
they move in accordance with targeted signals. Researchers 
at Uppsala University said the method can also be used to 
study how migration of cancer cells and nerves can be cont-
rolled. "Our study shows that a simple gradient from a sig-
nal protein is sufficient to tell the blood vessel cell in 
which direction it is to move. We have also been able to 
show that the form of the gradient governs the way in which 
the cell moves," said Irmeli Barkefors, a postgraduate stu-
dent at Uppsala University. The researchers are now develop-
ing the method further in order to study targeted migration 
in complicated organ culture systems, whereby interaction 
between different cell types can be studied. "The method can
basically be adapted to facilitate study of all types of 
cells. It is particularly important to study the mechanisms 
that determine whether or not cancer cells spread," said 
Johan Kreuger, who has been heading the project. The find-
ings are to appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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        Changing anti-depressants may be effective

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., -- U.S. psychiatrists say they've found 
depressed people not responding to an anti-depressant should
switch to a different type of medicine. Researchers from 
Harvard, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of 
Pennsylvania pooled results from four studies that examined 
people whose depressive symptoms didn't respond to treatment
with a type of anti-depressant called a selective serotonin 
reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.  Fluoxetine (Prozac), citalo-
pram (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft) are frequently used 
SSRIs, the scientists said. Some patients who didn't respond
were switched to another SSRI, while others were switched to
a different class of anti-depressant medicines, such as ven-
lafaxine (Effexor) or buproprion (Wellbutrin or Zyban). Har-
vard Professor Dr. George Papakostas, one of the study's 
authors, said the results showed switching from a selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitor to a drug with a different 
mechanism of action was found to be slightly more effective 
and slightly less-well tolerated than switching to another 
SSRI drug. The study appears in the journal Biological 
        Study: Synthetic estrogens may be harmful

NEW HAVEN, Conn., -- U.S. scientists say they have deter-
mined why synthetic estrogens, such as found in some plast-
ics, can hurt a developing fetus. Yale School of Medicine 
researchers said previous studies showed exposure to the 
synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol, or DES, alters the 
expression of HOXA10 -- a gene necessary for uterine devel-
opment -- and increases the risk of cancer and pregnancy 
complications in female offspring. In the new study, the 
team studied DNA from the offspring of 30 pregnant mice 
injected with DES. They found changes in certain regions of 
the HOXA10 gene persisted into adulthood, indicating expo-
sure to DES and similar substances results in lasting gen-
etic memory. "We found HOXA10 protein expression was shif-
ted to the bottom portion of the uterus in the female off-
spring," said Dr. Hugh Taylor, a Yale professor who led the
study. "We also found increased amounts of the enzyme res-
ponsible for changes in the DNA. Rather than just changing 
how much of the protein is there, DES is actually changing 
the structure of the HOXA10 gene. The study that included 
Jason Bromer and Jie Wu was recently presented in San Diego 
during the annual scientific meeting of the Society for 
Gynecologic Investigation.


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          AIDS drug boosts heart attack risk

SAN FRANCISCO, -- A European study suggests that patients 
who take the popular AIDS drug abacavir nearly doubled their
risk of heart attack. The findings, published in the journal
Lancet, have prompted a U.S. Food and Drug Administration 
review of the anti-viral medication, the San Francisco 
Chronicle said Wednesday. The University of Copenhagen study
of more than 33,000 HIV-infected patients in North America, 
Europe and Australia showed that patients taking abacavir 
had a 90 percent greater chance of developing a heart att-
ack. The risk of heart attack increased by 49 percent in 
patients taking the drug didanosine. The FDA said an effort 
is under way to evaluate the overall risks and benefits of 
abacavir and didanosine. "Until this evaluation is complete,
healthcare providers should evaluate the potential risks and
benefits of each HIV-1 anti-retroviral drug their patients 
are taking, including abacavir and didanosine," the agency 
said in an online statement. A federal panel this year rec-
ommended that abacavir, combined with the anti-viral 3TC 
and sold as Epzicom, be considered a preferred choice for 
patients taking AIDS drugs for the first time, the newspaper

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