Studies of living brain tissue may lead to the development of new stroke therapies
Dr. Sergei Kirov, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies, is using slices of living human brain tissue to identify potential new therapies for stroke patients. As he notes, a stroke takes away the pump that maintains necessary levels of sodium and potassium in and around brain cells. When the pump is not working accurately, cells become bloated and die. Resulting waves cause much of the immediate brain cell death in the strokes core, with milder waves continuing in contiguous areas called the penumbra. This can potentially increase stroke size and damage. Using an animal model, Dr. Kirov is looking at several drugs to evaluate whether the pounding of the penumbra can be stopped. He has also completed a small pilot study using live human tissue.
As reported in a 2007 issue of Stroke, many stroke therapies that looked promising in animal studies failed in humans. The report outlined a course of action that included studies in human brain tissue concentrating on the penumbra area. Dr. Kirov believes that focusing on human tissue will help researchers more effectively identify those therapies that will have true clinical merit: Human brain slices as a model system can provide a missing link between animal models and patients, and offer a unique chance to identify and study potentially useful therapeutics, he says.
New type of treatment may be effective in killing prostate cancer cells
A new study published in The Prostate has demonstrated that certain measles virus strains, including MV-CEA, may be effective in treating patients with advanced prostate cancer. The study findings show that this type of treatment, known as virotherapy, may prove to be effective in treating prostate cancer, the leading cause of death among males in the United States. To date, there is no curative therapy available to treat locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer. According to the study, the median survival time of mice treated with MV-CEA nearly doubled compared to the controls. In addition, in 20 percent of the treated mice, complete tumor regression was observed. The Mayo Clinic Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in prostate cancer supported the study. These viral strains could represent excellent candidates for clinical testing against advanced prostate cancer, including androgen resistant tumors, says Evanthia Galanis, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, Senior Author of the study. The oncolytic strains of measles virus are a new class of therapeutic agents. Because they do not show any cross-resistance with existing treatment methods, they can be combined with conventional approaches. Using virotherapy in treating prostate cancer is particularly promising because primary tumor sites can be easily accessed. The agent can be applied directly to the tumor by ultrasound-guided needle injections, and such non-invasive techniques as ultrasound and MRI can be used to closely monitor treatment. The measles vaccine strains also have an excellent track record, with vaccines having been administered safely for more than four decades.
Cleaner air has positive impact on life expectancy
Researchers at Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health have released a study suggesting that a reduction in air pollutants in 51 U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000 has added an average of five months to life expectancy. Moreover, residents in cities that made the most significant improvements in air quality, such as Pittsburgh, PA, can expect to live almost 10 months longer.
The research compared changes in air pollution from 1980 to 2000 with residents life expectancies during those years. Other factors that can affect average life expectancy, such as changes in population, income, education and cigarette smoking, were taken into account. After adjusting for these and other factors, the researchers determined that for every microgram per cubic meter decrease in fine-particulate air pollution, life expectancies rose by more than seven months. There is an important positive message here that the efforts to reduce particulate air pollution concentrations in the United States over the past 20 years have led to substantial and measurable improvements in life expectancy, says study co-author Douglas Dockery, Chair, Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.
It is widely accepted that fine-particulate air pollution is known to contribute to cardiovascular and lung disease. The particulate matter is inhaled much like a gas and is believed to increase blood pressure, the risk of heart attack and the possibility of a heart disease-related death.
Incidence of Americans with multiple chronic illnesses rise, along with out-of-pocket costs
More Americans especially seniors are suffering from multiple chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which is placing a greater cost burden on their shoulders. Government survey data shows that 44% of Americans in 2005 suffered from at least one chronic medical condition a 3% increase over 1996. However, the percentage of Americans with a combination of at least three conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cancer, arthritis and/or heart failure, increased even more significantly. Across all ages, it rose from 7% in 1996 to 13% in 2005 regardless of sex, race, ethnicity and income level. Seniors 80 and older exhibited an even sharper increase: from 38% in 1996 to 54% in 2005.
In addition, as researchers in the journal Health Affairs reported, annual out-of-pocket medical costs soared over the same time frame, from $427 per American to $741 a 39% increase after adjusting for inflation. The burden on older Americans is much higher. Medicare recipients 65 and older with three or more conditions paid an average of $2,588 in out-of-pocket expenses. The burden of chronic conditions is becoming heavier, says Kathryn Paez of the Maryland-based health research organization Social & Scientific Systems Inc. The higher costs may make it harder for some people to pay for needed medications and they may not stay on them or they may skip doses, worsening their medical conditions, she adds.
Obesity is seen as a key factor. In fact, the increase in obesity and sedentary lifestyles is believed to be a factor in the number of new cases of diabetes skyrocketing by approximately 90% over the past 10 years.