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Study: Women Age 30+ Modify Breast Cancer Risk With Exercise

Women over age 30 who regularly exercise decrease their chances of breast cancer, according to a study presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 56th Annual Meeting in Seattle.

The comprehensive study narrowed in on specific age ranges, surveying 4,296 women about their physical activity practices during four key stages of life: 10 to 15 years old; 15 to 30 years old; 30 to 50 years old; and 50 years old and above.

Although incidence of breast cancer did not appear to change in relation to exercise levels between 10 and 30 years of age, women above 30 significantly decreased their chances of contracting the disease if they were more active.

“Regular exercise appears to have protective effects for this age group of women,” said the study’s lead researcher, Lisa Sprod. “Meeting physical activity recommendations can act like a prescription for prevention when it comes to breast cancer.”

Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in women.

The study supports data that links exercise to risk of breast cancer, particularly as it relates to the consistency of activity through a woman’s lifespan. This research consistently connects the benefits of exercise for women to a favorable effect on hormone levels, body weight, weight gain with age, and immune function.

ACSM guidelines support the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, which can be achieved in 30-minute segments five days a week. ACSM provides tools for getting started with a physical activity program, including assessments to determine pre-exercise health level and potential barriers to fitness, at acsm/physicalactivity.

American College of Sports Medicine

Gene Therapy Study In Mice Shows Long-Term Muscle Improvements

Injecting a gene responsible for making a specific protein into a mouse that’s used as a model for muscular dystrophy can lead to long-term improvements in the animal’s muscle size and strength, a new study shows.

Researchers investigating the gene delivery of the protein in animals suggest the results warrant testing the same approach in human clinical trials for diseases associated with muscle wasting, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form of the childhood disorder.

Scientists used a safe virus to deliver a protein called follistatin into the leg muscles of young and older mice that have a disorder similar to human Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). The protein inhibits the activity of myostatin, identified in previous research as a protein that limits muscle growth. Both young and old mice treated with the therapy responded with increased muscle mass and improvements in strength.

Because the older mice in the study responded well to the protein, the therapy might hold promise for older patients with DMD who have few treatment options once their muscles have experienced progressive degeneration, said principal investigator Brian Kaspar, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University.

“These studies are significant given that there was functional effect on muscle enhancement even when treated at later stages in the mouse model,” Kaspar said.

The study also takes a rare long look at the effects of the therapy.

“Many studies don’t evaluate a therapy over a two-year time span. In our studies, the beneficial effects persisted over the two years we evaluated,” Kaspar said. “Furthermore, this long-term study shows that there were no obvious safety problems with either the gene therapy virus or the therapeutic protein, follistatin.”

The research is reported online in this week’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

DMD affects about one in 3,500 boys, who can show early symptoms of muscle degeneration and typically lose the ability to walk between age 6 and 12. With progressive disease, most patients die of respiratory failure or cardiac dysfunction in their 20s. Girls can carry the gene that causes the disease, but most have no symptoms.

The mice used in this study as a model for DMD are called mdx mice. The older mdx mice received the therapy when they were 210 days old, at least a month after they showed significant hallmarks of their disease, including inflammation and fibrosis. When they were 560 days old, the treated mice showed robust muscles, with increased muscle fiber size along with reduced inflammation and less scarring compared to control-treated mdx mice.

In studies of younger mdx mice, the therapy was administered when they were 3 weeks old. At age 5 months, they had a larger body mass and higher muscle weight than did comparison animals.

Mice used for comparison were treated with an inactive fluorescent protein that allowed researchers to monitor which cells were affected by the experimental gene therapy technique.

Before testing follistatin in mdx mice, the scientists first tested the protein in normal mice and found after 725 days that they, too, had increased muscle mass and better grip strength when compared to untreated mice.

The resulting muscle enhancements in all of the treated mice were evident at the site of injection as well as in tricep muscles, meaning the therapy was able to affect other muscle cells in the body. To deliver the protein, scientists used an adeno-associated virus that had been manipulated to find its way into target cells without promoting any spread of the virus itself.

Previous research has shown that simply eliminating myostatin isn’t sufficient to improve muscle function in muscles of older DMD patients once progressive degeneration has begun. But the follistatin treatment in this latest study appeared to do more than just inhibit the effects of myostatin.

“This protein led to muscle enhancement, increased strength and lowered the effects of inflammation and fibrosis,” Kaspar said. “Because of those effects, we believe that it could be potentially useful for older Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients. And these results appear to translate to other muscle wasting diseases and aging, so it has potential to help a larger population of patients.”

The researchers selected a specific type of follistatin, known as the human FS-344 variant, in part for safety reasons, because some forms of the protein have been associated with disrupting reproductive function. After two years, the therapy in these studies showed no effects on reproductive function or cardiac function in the mice.

Kaspar is among researchers in the Center for Gene Therapy within the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, testing another kind of gene therapy in DMD patients in which the properties of the gene they are missing, dystrophin, are replaced.

“The muscle damage that older DMD patients have experienced may preclude them from having the gene correction performed. We think combination therapies may be another step in the research concerning older Duchenne patients, and follistatin could be part of that combination,” said Jerry Mendell, a co-author of these new studies, professor of pediatrics at Ohio State and director of the Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.


Kaspar and Mendell conducted the research with Amanda Haidet, Liza Rizo, Chalonda Handy, Priya Umapathi, Amy Eagle, Chris Shilling, Daniel Boue, Paul Martin and Zarife Sahenk, all of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Martin, Sahenk, Mendell and Kaspar also are faculty for Ohio State’s neurosciences graduate program. Haidet and Handy are students in Ohio State’s integrated biomedical science graduate program, where Kaspar is also a faculty member.

This research was supported by Project A.L.S., the Myositis Association, Roger Stevens and a National Research Service Award fellowship.

Source: Brian Kaspar

Ohio State University

No Conclusive Link Beween Light Brown Apple Moth Spraying And Illnesses, Office Of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California

A study released by state health officials shows that there was no conclusive link between the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) spraying and the reported illnesses last fall in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Doctors and scientists from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) examined the illness complaints that followed aerial spraying of a pheromone product in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last year and described their findings in today’s report.

“We examined all of the complaints and it was not possible to link the reported symptoms to the aerial spraying,” said OEHHA Director Dr. Joan Denton.

As the LBAM program continues, the state will monitor the safety of any future spraying. The study recommends that health officials should improve outreach programs and enhance systems for collecting and analyzing any reports of health effects following spray applications.

“We want to assure the public that we are responding to their safety concerns,” Denton said. “Doctors will know how to recognize and treat symptoms if they occur, and we will collect complete information on any health effects that citizens report.”

The study considered all complaints the state has received, both formal and informal, but most did not contain enough information to determine the cause of the symptoms reported. In addition, most of the symptoms reported were relatively mild or common among the general public. The most commonly reported symptoms were eye, skin or respiratory irritation that could be consistent with a variety of possible causes, such as allergies, pollen or the common cold. As a result, the agencies concluded in the report that they cannot conclusively determine whether or not there is a direct link between the reported symptoms and the aerial spraying.

OEHHA and DPR had earlier examined the pheromone product that was sprayed and concluded that the amount that reached the ground was extremely low – less than one ounce of pheromones and other chemical ingredients was deposited on the ground per acre within the aerial-application areas.

The three state agencies that prepared today’s report already are working to implement recommendations for improved public outreach, surveillance and reporting of symptoms related to future eradication efforts. They are currently working to establish a dedicated toll-free telephone number for medical providers and the public to report any adverse health effects believed to be related to the aerial pheromone application. Calls will be answered by trained staff who will record information in standardized formats and send it to OEHHA and DPR.

OEHHA and CDPH will also do outreach with local health departments, physician groups and county environmental health departments. The outreach program will provide doctors with information on symptoms to look for and questions to ask people who believe they have symptoms associated with spraying. Doctors will receive information on how to file Pesticide Illness Reports that can be used to better document, assess and respond to potential problems.

It has been widely reported that 643 people complained of symptoms they believe were caused by the spraying in Monterey and Santa Cruz last year. However, the study found that many of those were duplicates, and most never sought medical attention or called CDFA’s hotline. When the duplicates were eliminated, the study found 487 confirmed symptom reports.

A total of 79 people consulted with doctors about symptoms following the spraying, but only 45 Pesticide Illness Reports were filed. Doctors are required to file Pesticide Illness Reports to the state every time they see symptoms that may be related to pesticide applications.

Many of the complaints were sent only to private parties in response to an ad on craigslist and solicitations on other websites that later sent them to health officials.

The complete report is available on OEHHA’s website at oehha. Extensive information on the LBAM eradication program is available – click here.

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
Joan E. Denton, Ph.D., Director Headquarters
1001 I Street
California 95814

Even Occasional Smoking Can Impair Arteries

Even occasional cigarette smoking can impair the functioning of your arteries, according to a new University of Georgia study that used ultrasound to measure how the arteries of young, healthy adults respond to changes in blood flow.

“Most people know that if they have a cigarette or two over the weekend that it’s not good for their arteries,” said study co-author Kevin McCully, a professor of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education, “but what they may not be aware of – and what our study shows – is that the decrease in function persists into the next week, if not longer.”

Previous studies have shown reductions in the arterial health of people who smoke regularly, McCully said, but what’s surprising about his finding is that the study subjects were occasional smokers (less than a pack a week) who had not smoked for at least two days before their ultrasound. The study, which appears in the early online edition of the journal Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, found that the arteries of occasional smokers were 36 percent less responsive to changes in blood flow than non-smokers.

McCully explained that the healthier an artery is, the more responsive it is to changes in blood flow. A reduction in responsiveness, known as impaired flow-mediated dilation, is an early sign of arterial damage that often foreshadows cardiovascular disease. The researchers recruited 18 college students for their study, half of whom were non-smokers. The other half smoked less than a pack a week and had not smoked for at least two days before undergoing testing. The researchers measured the responsiveness of the participants’ arteries by inflating a blood pressure cuff around their non-dominant arm to reduce blood flow to the forearm for various durations up to 10 minutes. The researchers then rapidly deflated the cuff and measured how well the main artery in the forearm responded to the sudden increase in blood flow.

“We wanted to determine whether occasional smoking can impair flow-mediated dilation and found that repeated bouts of cigarette smoking – even if classified as occasional – appear to increase the risk for developing cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy, young people,” said lead author Lee Stoner, a former UGA doctoral student and now a researcher at Christchurch Hospital in New Zealand.

After the occasional smokers underwent their initial test, they smoked two cigarettes and had their arteries re-examined. The researchers found that smoking dropped their arterial responsiveness by another 24 percent compared to before they smoked.

McCully acknowledged that the study used a relatively small sample size and said that further research is needed to determine if the impaired arterial function is a relatively short-term phenomenon or causes long-term damage. But he said that in light of his findings, people shouldn’t assume that smoking occasionally allows them to avoid the harmful effects of tobacco.

“We saw a definite effect of cigarettes on the arteries, even in young people who you would expect to be healthy,” he said.


Source: Sam Fahmy

University of Georgia

GTx Announces Toremifene 80 Mg Phase III ADT Clinical Trial Data To Be Presented At The Annual Meeting Of The American Urological Association

GTx, Inc. (NASDAQ: GTXI) announced that data from the Phase III clinical trial evaluating toremifene 80 mg for the prevention of fractures in men with prostate cancer on androgen deprivation therapy will be the subject of an oral podium presentation at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association being held in Chicago April 25 – 30.

- Abstract #639 – “Positive fracture reduction trial of toremifene 80 mg in men on ADT demonstrates significant fracture risk in untreated placebo group”

- Sunday, April 26, 2009, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Central Time

- McCormick Place Chicago, Room W475 AB

GTx, Inc.

Behavioral Health Research Stimulates Policy Changes For Care Of Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans

AcademyHealth has recognized research that improves access to behavioral health care for returning U.S. service members with the 2011 Health Services Research (HSR) Impact Award. The research project, “The Invisible Wounds of War,” is the first and only large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and led to policy action by members of Congress, the Department of Defense, and the VA, and other stakeholders.

“The policy changes resulting from this study show how powerful and essential research is to improving care for Americans,” said Lisa Simpson, president and CEO of AcademyHealth. “With this award, we recognize the effective dissemination and translation strategies that gave policymakers the evidence needed to inform their decisions.”

The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, analyzed the mental health and cognitive needs of veterans. The investigators found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or traumatic brain injury. Roughly half of those needing treatment had sought it, but only slightly more than half who received treatment got minimally adequate care. As a result, RAND researchers disseminated their findings to a broad group of stakeholders, and recommended improvements to ensure better access to and delivery of evidence-based mental health care.

The analysis drew the attention of policymakers and the public to the large numbers of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who developed behavioral health care needs following deployment. Study findings stimulated wide-reaching policy change. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates finalized modifications to the Department of Defense security clearance application to diminish potential stigma associated with psychological care. Subsequently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for mandatory screening for post-traumatic stress for all returning military personnel. The principal user of this research, the U.S. Congress, cited the study as essential in its work.

Accepting the award on behalf of the RAND “Invisible Wounds of War” project is Terri Tanielian, M.A., senior social research analyst and co-director of the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research.

Elyse Phelps

Cannabis does not induce schizophrenia, Dutch scientists say

A group of Dutch scientists say that there is no proof that cannabis induces schizophrenia. These findings will be embarrassing for the Dutch government, which has been bearing down on Marijuana Coffee Shops saying the drug induces schizophrenia.

You can read about this study in the journal Psychiatry.

The scientists say in the journal that after reviewing currently available data there is justifiable reason for closing down coffee shops in The Netherlands.

The scientists say the drug only seems to affect people who are genetically predisposed to getting schizophrenia (meaning they will get it anyway). As schizophrenia manifests itself during adolescence, and many people start taking cannabis during adolescence – it is just coincidence that some people develop the mental illness soon after they start taking the drug.

The authors of the report wrote “It is therefore advisable that youngsters with a family history of schizophrenia and patients with a schizophrenic disorder be discouraged from using cannabis.”

Next year all coffee shops will be subjected to a smoking ban in The Netherlands. The sale of alcohol in Dutch coffee shops is being banned this year.

Badger Cull Supported By Science, Say Vets, UK

Veterinary associations have strongly welcomed the announcement by Defra that it is strongly minded to include a controlled cull of badgers as a key component of the bovine tuberculosis (TB) eradication plans for England.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its specialist cattle division the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) have long supported the need to control TB in both cattle and wildlife, including the need for a targeted, humane cull of badgers in specific parts of the country.

Following a comprehensive consultation exercise (which closed in December 2010), Defra has today announced:

– A 9-week consultation on plans to license groups of farmers and landowners to carry out controlled culls of badgers in specific areas

– Ongoing cattle measures and planned measures, including reducing compensation where TB tests are overdue and removing some exemptions to pre-movement testing

- ВЈ20 million investment over the next five years to develop effective cattle and oral badger vaccines

The BVA and BCVA jointly responded to Defra’s 2010 consultation to say that the available science supported the case for a badger cull, alongside the need for stricter cattle control measures, in those areas where badgers are regarded as a significant contributor to the persistent presence of TB. The response also emphasised strongly that any cull of badgers had to be done in a humane and effective manner.

Today’s announcement reveals that Defra has listened closely to the veterinary associations’ concerns. Through the consultation response the BVA and BCVA raised the important issue of the efficacy of an industry-led cull using controlled shooting (as opposed to cage trapping and shooting) and stated firmly that any cull must be monitored for humaneness. Both of these issues have been considered in depth by Defra and appear to have been addressed in the plans.

The BVA and BCVA will be looking closely at the detail of the guidance issued today and will be responding to the consultation.

Commenting, Harvey Locke, President of the BVA, said:

“The BVA and BCVA have long argued for a targeted, humane badger cull to be used alongside stricter cattle controls. We believe that failure to tackle wildlife sources of TB infection has prolonged the presence and enhanced the spread of infection in all affected species populations.

“We recognise that this is a very emotive and difficult decision but we believe that the science supports this policy and we support Defra’s commitment to tackling this devastating disease.

“We are particularly pleased that this announcement has not been delayed until after the summer recess, which demonstrates the seriousness of the need to tackle TB.”

vJohn Fishwick, President of BCVA, added:

“We welcome today’s announcement which indicates that a humane and carefully targeted cull of badgers can contribute to the control of this dreadful disease.

“We are particularly pleased that the veterinary profession’s concerns that any cull must be humane and well monitored appear to have been listened to and we will now study the proposals in detail.

“An industry-led cull will be an enormous undertaking for everyone involved and it is vital that we get the detail right from the outset; for the sake of cattle, wildlife and industry.”


British Veterinary Association

New study seeks out evidence of stem cells in the heart

If you’ve ever used a loofah in the shower, you’ve stirred up some stem cells. As the outer layer of skin sloughs off, stem cells in the dermis rush to repair and replace those buffed away.

Now imagine a tiny loofah that works in much the same way inside the corridors of the human heart. As it scrubs, it alerts heart stem cells to rush to the site of dying cells to begin renewal and repair of cardiomyocytes – cells that pump blood through the heart.

While a heart loofah may remain the stuff of medical fantasy, Steven Houser, Ph.D., Director of Cardiovascular Research Center at Temple University School of Medicine, is sold on the idea that the heart – like the skin – contains its own stem cells: cells that are self-renewing and can be differentiated into different types of heart tissue. It’s a controversial subject in cardiovascular circles, but for Houser, who spent thirty years studying the molecular biology of heart cells, the stakes are worth it when it comes to combating congestive heart failure (CHF).

Although stem cells have been found in many other organs in the body, including the brain, many researchers remain unconvinced that the heart contains stem cells. Houser respectfully disagrees. Abandoning his prior cell research, he has joined forces with one of the foremost investigators in cardiac stem cells, Pierro Anversa, M.D., professor of medicine and Director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York Medical College. Anversa, who has been on the forefront of stem cell research for the past five years, has suggested that heart cells undergo an ongoing turnover fueled by cardiac stem cells. In June of this year, he published a study that actually identified cardiac stem cells in animal models that repaired tissue damaged by a heart attack.

One element that convinced Houser of Anversa’s work was his own research into how the heart reacts under the stress of hypertensive diseases that can lead to congestive heart failure. Early in the disease, the heart muscle mass increases and the chambers stretch in a vain attempt to increase contracting power. While part of the enlargement is due to increased muscle mass, the question of how the chambers grow is less certain.

The traditional view holds that cardiac cells simply grow larger to accommodate the increased need, but Houser and Anversa developed a different theory – that spurred by the cardiac stem cells, cardiomyocytes actually increase in number in their response to the heart’s traumatic condition.

To test this theory, Houser, with the help of Anversa, has received a new NIH grant to study if there are autologous stem cells in the heart. The two researchers have arrived at a deceptively simple idea. After inducing hypertension in an animal model to produce a distressed heart they will study the heart tissue and count cells, first in the normal heart and then in a heart that must work harder to develop excess pressure. If, according to the scientists’ thesis, there are more cardiomyocytes in the heart as opposed to simply larger cells, they will conclude that stem cells had a hand in an attempt to repair and restore the heart.

“We’ve made a tremendous impact on cardiovascular diseases,” he says. “But what we need to do now is to reverse this disease rather than just slow its progression.”

Although his colleagues may remain skeptical, Houser has committed himself to the stem cell model. Inducing cells to promote repair can answer the question that has haunted his career.

“We don’t know how to fix the broken heart, but stem cells might be a large part of the answer.”

Eryn Jelesiewicz
Temple University