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Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
FRIDAY, Jan. 30 -- Eager to relieve joint pain and repair the cushioning between bones, millions of arthritis sufferers reach for glucosamine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Despite its popularity, studies examining the effectiveness of this natural therapy have yielded mixed results. "There is still a lot of uncertainty about glucosamine," said Dr. Steven C. Vlad, a fellow in clinical epidemiology and rheumatology at Boston University School of Medicine. So what is glucosamine, anyway? It's a type of sugar that the body produces and distributes in cartilage and other connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate, often taken in combination with glucosamine, is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. These substances are derived from animal tissues, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Glucosamine is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells, and chondroitin sulfate c [Read more]
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4 -- The melamine-tainted infant formula in China that sickened more than 50,000 kids last fall resulted in more than 10 percent of the youngest ones developing kidney problems, according to just-released Beijing research on the scandal. About 20 percent of melamine-exposed infants in Taiwan and 10 percent of those who drank the formula in Beijing ended up getting kidney stones. And children born prematurely had an even greater risk, concluded the authors of a study released online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine and scheduled to appear in the journal's March 12 print issue. "We've had reports of roughly the number of children affected, but this is the first report that is more systematically looking at the ramifications of the exposure in kids," said Dr. Michael Somers, a pediatric nephrologist with Children's Hospital Boston and a spokesman for the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology. "This is from the hospital in Beijing, which is their eq [Read more]
Genetic Test for Heart Disease Risk in the Works
SUNDAY, Feb. 8 -- Perhaps five years from now, you might actually hear your doctor casually say, "While we're at it, let's do a blood test to see if your genetic makeup puts you at high risk of having a heart attack." So says Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of preventive cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the leader of a group that has identified three new genetic variants associated with an increased risk of heart attack. That finding, which brings the total of such risk-associated variants to nine, is reported in the Feb. 8 online issue of Nature Genetics. The journal highlights a total of five papers from groups around the world looking at the genetics of heart disease. The study led by Kathiresan, done by a group of six organizations called the Myocardial Infarction Genetics Consortium, is the largest of the five. It compared the genomes of about 3,000 people who had suffered heart attacks rel [Read more]
Age No Bar to Aggressive Rx for Cardiogenic Shock
MONDAY, Feb. 16 -- Age shouldn't prevent the aggressive treatment of elderly patients with heart attack complicated by cardiogenic shock, Australian researchers report. Cardiogenic shock (CS) occurs when the heart fails to supply enough blood to the body's organs. It is the most common cause of death after heart attack among Americans over the age of 75. There's typically been widespread reluctance to use invasive treatments on elderly heart patients. However, this study found that elderly patients with heart attack complicated by CS who underwent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) had a one-year survival rate similar to that of younger patients. "Elderly patients who are admitted to the hospital with massive heart attacks may still benefit from emergency coronary artery balloon angioplasty with stenting, despite their advanced age. Although mortality occurs in roughly half of patients in these high risk situations, without this aggressive treatment, the prospect of s [Read more]
Scientists May Have New Way to Fight the Flu
SUNDAY, Feb. 22 -- A new scientific discovery could someday lead to medications to fight the flu as well as a vaccine that would not have to be changed every year because it could target a broad range of flu strains. "We identified new human antibodies that inactivate influenza, not just bird flu, but any of the seasonal influenza viruses that affect us in the winter," said researcher Dr. Wayne A. Marasco, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The antibodies recognize a new part of the influenza virus and inactivate the virus by a new mechanism, Marasco said, "so it's really a new target, new mechanism, new human antibodies." Antibodies can be used as drugs, he noted, adding that drugs derived from antibodies are commonplace in treatment for such cancers as colon, breast and lymphoma. Drugs developed from the newly identified antibodies could, in combination with other treatments, prevent or treat certain avian an [Read more]
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
TUESDAY, March 3 -- When macular degeneration causes one to start losing his or her sight, the affected neurons simply start seeking visual input from other, non-affected parts of the eye, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report. "This study shows us one way that the brain changes when its inputs change. Neurons seem to want to receive input: When their usual input disappears, they start responding to the next best thing," senior author Nancy Kanwisher, of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, said in an university news release. The researchers found when the cells in the fovea, the part of the retina responsible for the central field of vision, were damaged by macular degeneration (MD) -- the neuron attached to them begin responding to stimuli in an undamaged section -- a type of internal reorganization of the eye's visual map as opposed to the cortex's work being shifting to other neurons. "Our study shows that the changes we see in neural response in [Read more]
Antidepressant Use Tied to Cardiac Death in Women
MONDAY, March 9 -- Women who use antidepressants appear to be at heightened risk for sudden cardiac death, although the exact nature of the link remains unclear, researchers say. The finding doesn't necessarily mean that antidepressant drugs are dangerous, the researchers said. "We suspect that their use is a marker for people with worse depression," explained study lead author Dr. William Whang, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "The elevated risk seems more specific for antidepressant use, but that use may well be a marker of more severe symptoms." The link between depression and heart trouble is more likely physical than psychological, Whang added. "We found that women who had worse depressive symptoms had higher rates of risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and smoking," he said. Women with clinical depression were more than twice as likely to experience sudden cardiac death, the report said. Th [Read more]
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