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12 March 2010

In The Future Our Own Skin Cells Could Be Used To Repair Our Hearts

A heart patient's own skin cells soon could be used to repair damaged cardiac tissue thanks to pioneering stem cell research of the University of Houston's newest biomedical scientist, Robert Schwartz.

His new technique for reprogramming human skin cells puts him at the forefront of a revolution in medicine that could one day lead to treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and many other diseases.

Schwartz brings his ground-breaking research to UH as the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and head of UH's new Center for Gene Regulation and Molecular Therapeutics. He also is affiliated with the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, where he is director of stem cell engineering.

"Professor Schwartz's work will save lives, and his decision to pursue this pioneering research at UH is a big leap forward on our way to Tier-One status," said John Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Together with the many other outstanding scientists we've assembled here, Schwartz will help make this university a major player in medical research."

Schwartz devised a method for turning ordinary human skin cells into heart cells. The cells developed are similar to embryonic stem cells and ultimately can be made into early-stage heart cells derived from a patient's own skin. These then could be implanted and grown into fully developed beating heart cells, reversing the damage caused by previous heart attacks. These new cells would replace the damaged cardiac tissue that weakens the heart's ability to pump, develops into scar tissue and causes arrhythmias. Early clinical trials using these reprogrammed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one or two years.

Although Schwartz is not the first scientist to turn adult cells into such stem cells, his improved method could pave the way for breakthroughs in other diseases. Schwartz's method requires fewer steps and yields more stem cells. Armed with an effective way to make induced stem cells from a patient's own skin, scientists can then begin the work of growing all kinds of human cells.

For example, new brain cells could treat Alzheimer's patients or those with severe brain trauma, or a diabetic could get new insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Generating new kidney, lung or liver tissue is also possible, with scientists even being able to one day grow an entirely new heart or other organ from these reprogrammed cells. Additionally, Schwartz and his team are working on turning induced stem cells into skeletal muscle cells to treat muscular dystrophy.

"We're trying to advance science in ways folks never even dreamed about," Schwartz said. "The idea of having your own bag of stem cells that you can carry through life and use for tissue regeneration is at the very cutting edge of science."

This latest biomedical hire is a major step in the UH Health Initiative, an effort aimed at having the university become a world-class center for medical research. Creating new cross-disciplinary academic and health-related research opportunities for faculty and students is crucial to this initiative, as are collaborations with other Texas Medical Center member institutions. One of its top goals is to increase the amount of sponsored research expenditures awarded to UH, which is a key factor in attaining Tier-One status.

"Dr. Schwartz will expand UH's expertise in promising new areas of scientific discovery to alleviate human disease. By recruiting premier scientists like Schwartz, UH is fast becoming a major player in the regional biomedical research community," said Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives at UH.

Schwartz has decades of experience at the Texas Medical Center. Before coming to UH, he was director of the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, a research component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. He also was a longtime tenured professor at Baylor College of Medicine and co-directed the school's Center for Cardiovascular Development. The new research center Schwartz heads at UH will be housed in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities at the university's Science and Engineering Research Center.

What attracted him to UH was the commitment of administrators and faculty to making the university a premier center for biomedical research. His hiring comes just a year after the arrival of Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a world-renowned scientist and cancer researcher. They join other leading UH faculty, ranging from biochemists to computer scientists and mathematicians, who are deeply involved in cutting-edge medical research.

11 March 2010

Low levels of vitamin D linked to muscle fat, decreased strength in young people

First-of-a-kind study by investigator at the Research Institute of the MUHC finds 'epidemic' of vitamin D insufficiency in young, healthy adults
This release is available in French.

There's an epidemic in progress, and it has nothing to do with the flu. A ground-breaking study published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found an astonishing 59 per cent of study subjects had too little Vitamin D in their blood. Nearly a quarter of the group had serious deficiencies (less than 20 ng/ml) of this important vitamin. Since Vitamin D insufficiency is linked to increased body fat, decreased muscle strength and a range of disorders, this is a serious health issue.

"Vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for other diseases," explains principal investigator, Dr. Richard Kremer, co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the Research Institute of the MUHC. "Because it is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body. Abnormal levels of Vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders."

The study by Dr. Kremer and co-investigator Dr. Vincente Gilsanz, head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles of the University of Southern California, is the first to show a clear link between Vitamin D levels and the accumulation of fat in muscle tissue – a factor in muscle strength and overall health. Scientists have known for years that Vitamin D is essential for muscle strength. Studies in the elderly have showed bedridden patients quickly gain strength when given Vitamin D.

The study results are especially surprising, because study subjects – all healthy young women living in California – could logically be expected to benefit from good diet, outdoor activities and ample exposure to sunshine – the trigger that causes the body to produce Vitamin D.

"We are not yet sure what is causing Vitamin D insufficiency in this group," says Dr. Kremer who is also Professor of Medicine at McGill University. High levels of Vitamin D could help reduce body fat. Or, fat tissues might absorb or retain Vitamin D, so that people with more fat are likely to also be Vitamin D deficient."

The results extend those of an earlier study by Dr. Kremer and Dr. Gilsanz, which linked low levels of Vitamin D to increased visceral fat in a young population. "In the present study, we found an inverse relationship between Vitamin D and muscle fat," Dr. Kremer says. "The lower the levels of Vitamin D the more fat in subjects' muscles."

While study results may inspire some people to start taking Vitamin D supplements, Dr. Kremer recommends caution. "Obviously this subject requires more study," he says. "We don't yet know whether Vitamin D supplementation would actually result in less accumulation of fat in the muscles or increase muscle strength. We need more research before we can recommend interventions. We need to take things one step at a time."

Acupuncture may relieve joint pain caused by some breast cancer treatments

Joint pain, stiffness common side effect of routine therapy
NEW YORK (March 4, 2010) – A new study, led by researchers at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, demonstrates that acupuncture may be an effective therapy for joint pain and stiffness in breast cancer patients who are being treated with commonly used hormonal therapies. Results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Joint pain and stiffness are common side effects of aromatase inhibitor therapy, in which the synthesis of estrogen is blocked. The therapy, which is a common and effective treatment for early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in post-menopausal women, has been shown in previous research to cause some joint pain and stiffness in half of women being treated.

"Since aromatase inhibitors have become an increasingly popular treatment option for some breast cancer patients, we aimed to find a non-drug option to manage the joint issues they often create, thereby improving quality of life and reducing the likelihood that patients would discontinue this potentially life-saving treatment," said Dawn Hershman, M.D, M.S., senior author of the paper, and co-director of the breast cancer program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and an assistant professor of medicine (hematology/oncology) and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center.

To explore the effects of acupuncture on aromatase inhibitor-associated joint pain, the research team randomly assigned 43 women to receive either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. Sham acupuncture, which was used to control for a potential placebo effect, involved superficial needle insertion at body points not recognized as true acupuncture points. All participants were receiving an aromatase inhibitor for early breast cancer, and all had reported musculoskeletal pain.

Among the women treated with true acupuncture, findings demonstrated that they experienced significant improvement in joint pain and stiffness over the course of the study. Pain severity declined, and overall physical well-being improved. Additionally, 20 percent of the patients who had reported taking pain relief medications reported that they no longer needed to take these medications following acupuncture treatment. No such improvements were reported by the women who were treated with the sham acupuncture.

"This study suggests that acupuncture may help women manage the joint pain and stiffness that can accompany aromatase inhibitor treatment," said Katherine D. Crew, M.D., M.S., first author of the paper, and the Florence Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine (hematology/oncology) and Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a hematological oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "To our knowledge, this is the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial establishing that acupuncture may be an effective method to relieve joint problems caused by these medications. However, results still need to be confirmed in larger, multicenter studies."

9 March 2010

New Scolioisis Self Help Book!

Health In Your Hands - Your Plan for Natural Scoliosis Prevention and Treatment

The central premise of my book is how to diagnosis and correct scoliosis non- invasively at any stage in order to arrest it progress before it’s too late.

Scoliosis, is a widespread condition in the world. According to available statistics, the spinal disorder, that leads to an curvature of the spine, strikes nearly two to three percent of all adolescents and becomes noticeable between the age of 10 and 15, when an adolescent is very image conscious.

Nearly, one in 10 Singaporeans suffers from lumbar scoliosis, according to a recent study conducted by a team of spine surgeons led by Professor Wong Hee Kit, chairman of the Orthopedics and Hand & Reconstructive Microsurgery Cluster at the National University Health System (NUHS). Worse, the study also revealed that the condition is 1.6 times more prevalent in women and that it occurs twice more often in Chinese and Malays than in Indians.

Conventional scoliosis treatment involves braces that patients have to wear passively through the day; while surgical procedures carry significant, other risks. My book in contrast draws heavily upon my own experiences as a Chiropractor and Nutritionist, and how I have helped hundreds of scoliosis patients with nothing more elaborate than a highly customized nutritional plan and a structured exercise/stretch program that I’ve explained at length with illustrations in this book.

Among other things, the book explains in simple, layman's language the anatomy and functioning of of the human spine and its relationship to food and exercise. The book is based is painstaking research collected over years of practice with scoliosis patients of all demographics. Testimonials of some of these patients are also appended in the book.

It's my firm conviction that this book will prove a valuable informational resource to the parents, who have children afflicted with scoliosis, as well as adults who suffer from the condition.

Vaccines That Worry Parents Most

(March 1) -- A new study shows that when it comes to getting their children vaccinated, some parents have conflicted feelings. Even though one in four parents believes some vaccines can trigger autism -- a fear rooted in a controversial 1998 study that has since been retracted -- about 90 percent of them follow medical advice to have their children vaccinated.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan and published in the journal Pediatrics, is based on a survey of 1,552 parents that was conducted last year, well before the autism-vaccine study was retracted last month. But the validity of that study had been under attack for years.

About 12 percent of parents in the Michigan study said they had refused to allow their children to receive a vaccine that a doctor recommended. The chart below shows four inoculations that those parents cited.

The vaccine for human papillomavirus protects against cervical cancer, but is fairly new. Some parents shy away from it because of their concerns about side effects. The vaccine for meningococcal diseases is also relatively new, and some people worry it causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune system disorder. That link is being investigated, but federal health officials still recommend the vaccine.

The shot for measles, mumps and rubella was the subject of the now-discredited 1998 research. The parents who refused to allow their children to get the vaccine said they had heard or read negative information about it. The chickenpox vaccine also made the list, but no evidence ties it to autism, doctors have said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about common vaccine-safety concerns, including those involving autism.