Making National News

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Making Headlines
Faculty members at the Feinberg School of Medicine and their colleagues in the life sciences at Northwestern University frequently are quoted or featured in national and/or international news stories. Here is a selection of recent media coverage. Links to the original stories are provided but please note that you may be required to register with the news organization to access them and that they may be expired.

It’s banned but not gone: Lead paint is still a danger
USA Today August 28, 2007
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-08-28-lead-paint_N.htm

The symptoms followed the renovations by a matter of weeks. Almost immediately after a contractor used an open-torch flame to burn the lead-based paint off Tamara Rubin’s colonial home in Portland, Ore., in 2003, her sons developed what appeared to be the flu. It turned out to be lead poisoning. “Anything you do that creates a fine debris, like sanding or scraping, can dramatically increase the levels of lead in a home,” says Helen Binns, professor of pediatrics at NORTHWESTERN University in Evanston, Ill. Although the CDC defines an elevated blood lead level as 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood or higher, no level of lead is considered safe.

Study Eyes Diabetes in Pregnant Women
Associated Press August 28, 2007
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/28/AR2007082800076.html

NEW YORK—A new, large study suggests that treating women who develop diabetes during pregnancy greatly reduces the chances that their baby will become obese during childhood. The research found that the higher the mother’s blood sugar levels, the greater the child’s risk of being obese by age 5 to 7, even if the mother wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes. Dr. Boyd Metzger of NORTHWESTERN University said the Kaiser research complements a study he presented earlier this summer that suggests lowering the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis. His study found the higher the mother’s blood sugar, the greater the risk of complications for the newborn, even at levels below the cutoff for diabetes. The new study “just provides further evidence that we should be making changes in the diagnosis,” said Metzger.

Stem-Cell Procedure Could Rebuild Heart Tissue
National Public Radio (NPR) August 26, 2007

[But] several teams around the world are [also]trying a kind of regenerative therapy using so-called adult stem cells taken from a patient’s own bone marrow. These cells don’t make heart muscle, but they do appear to be doing something beneficial. Douglas Losordo is conducting one of these experiments at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Dr. Losordo, director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute, says, “None of these therapies is anybody saying that once you get a single injection of bone marrow cells, your heart will be good to go even if you’ve had a big heart attack. Nobody’s saying that. These are all building blocks and our regenerative medicine strategy, that’s just being formulated.”

PALCA: Losordo says Murry’s approach using embryonic stem cells to make new heart muscle will probably be part of that strategy. Charles Murry says his work should help convince people opposed to embryonic stem cell research that the cells really are worth studying.

The explosive rethinking of sex reassignment
Globe and Mail (Canada) August 25, 2007

In the gay-rights movement and the academic world, nothing—but nothing—is more explosive than the science and politics of gender. And that includes the subject of transgendered women. One expert who supports this theory is psychologist J. Michael Bailey of NORTHWESTERN University. His 2003 book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, explains the biology of sexual orientation and gender. It has been called a compelling explanation of the science. But he has been bitterly denounced for his treatment of transgender issues. One prominent academic, a transgendered woman, compared his views to Nazi propaganda. Another well-known transgendered academic, Deirdre McCloskey, called his work “false, unscientific and politically damaging.” He has been accused of gross violations of scientific standards, and his research associates were warned by others in the field to keep their distance. He told The New York Times that the two years after he published his book were the hardest of his life.

Some people believe the crusade against Dr. Bailey is political correctness run amok. Alice Dreger, an ethics scholar brought in to conduct a lengthy investigation, exonerated him of wrongdoing and said, “What happened to Bailey is important, because the harassment was so extraordinarily bad and because it could happen to any researcher in the field.”.

HIV inhibits stem cells, spurs dementia: report
China Post August 17, 2007
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/supplement/2007/08/17/118773/HIV-inhibits.htm

Scientists have discovered how the HIV virus can halt the normal replication of stem cells in the adult brain, causing nervous symptoms and dementia. The lethal virus uses a protein called gp120 to stop brain stem cells in crucial regions from being replenished, said researchers led by Stuart Lipton, a neuroscientist at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California. “It’s possible that it might be useful,” said Richard Miller, a neuroscientist at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago, in a telephone interview Aug. 12. “It would be an implication of this paper and something that could be looked into.”.

Biggest threat from lead is in house paint
USA Today August 15, 2007

News of Mattel’s massive recall of toys this week may cause many parents to worry about whether their children have been exposed to lead. But while it’s smart for parents who suspect their kids actually were exposed to get them screened for lead, experts caution: A child these days is much more likely to be exposed to lead from paint on his walls than from the toys in his closet. “You want to look at your home,” says Helen Binns, a professor of pediatrics at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “How old is your home? Do you have lead paint there? Rather than just worrying about the toys, let’s focus on the huge hazard.”.

Binns, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on environmental health, says parents who are worried that their children have played with lead-contaminated toys should talk to their pediatricians but don’t bother looking for symptoms. “You can’t tell by looking at the child,” she says. “You can’t smell it, you can’t taste it, you can’t feel it. You can only do a blood-lead test. And if your child has a lot of oral behaviors—if their toys have peeling, chipping, cracking, and they’re putting them in their mouth….they may be at higher risk.”

Patients Just Want a Fair Shake
Washington Post August 14, 2007

The way doctors greet new patients affects their future relationship and may have an impact on medical errors, according to a new study by researchers at NORTHWESTERN University’s medical school. The study, which involved a telephone survey of 415 patients in 48 states and 123 videotaped encounters between doctors and first-time patients, is among the first to explore physicians’ actual greeting practices. The report, published in June in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that although there is widespread consensus that doctors’ greetings set the tone for relationships, there is little empirical evidence about what constitutes an appropriate greeting.

The videotaped encounters revealed that 83 percent of physicians shook hands with first-time patients, but that 51 percent did not use the patient’s name during their meeting. The research team led by Gregory Makoul, a professor in NORTHWESTERN’s division of internal medicine, recommends that physicians use both their first name and surname as well as those of the patient.

Make sure to understand health instructions
Clarion-Ledger (MS) August 14, 2007
http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070814/ COL0803/708140347/1292/health

The traditional definition of the word “literacy” is the ability to read, write and communicate with others in a society. “Health literacy” is the ability to read, understand and act on health information. Health information is everywhere, and it can be confusing for anyone, regardless of intelligence or ability to read and write. Many researchers are calling health literacy the biggest hidden health challenge in our country. A study published by NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine shows older people with inadequate health literacy had a 50 percent higher chance of dying than people who understood instructions given by health care providers.

Talking To Teens About Acne
West Fargo Pioneer (ND) August 13, 2007
http://www.westfargopioneer.com/articles/index.cfm?id=11818&freebie_check&CFID=6254320&CFTOKEN=68964704&jsessionid=88306a dce8b0395b5321

Skin blemishes are a fact of life for many teenagers, as more than 85 percent deal with acne. Even though it’s common among adolescents, many teens feel isolated and embarrassed when they experience breakouts. For parents with teens suffering from acne, it can be tough to broach the topic of skin care and acne. Parents may be reluctant to draw attention to their child’s breakouts since teenagers are particularly sensitive about their appearance. That is why it is important for parents to start a dialogue about skin care early-before problems arise.

“Maintaining a consistent cleansing routine is so important-using over-the-counter treatments regularly will help teens treat existing skin blemishes and prevent future breakouts,” said Dr. Charles Zugerman, associate professor of clinical dermatology at NORTHWESTERN University School of Medicine. “Alcohol-free pads don’t burn or irritate sensitive skin so they are ideal for everyday use.”

Inducing labor for convenience gets a second look
Los Angeles Times August 13, 2007
http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-induction13aug13,1,5179922.story?coll=la-utilities-health

Some hospitals and health care organizations across the nation share concerns. Several have barred elective labor induction under certain circumstances, such as before 39 weeks of gestation (one week before the due date) or when there isn’t clear evidence that the mother’s cervix is primed for childbirth. “There is renewed interest in these seemingly benign medical interventions,” says Dr. William Grobman, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NORTHWESTERN University. “But the topic is somewhat hazy. We don’t have all the information we’d like to have about risks and benefits.”

Study of gay brothers may find clues about sexuality
Chicago Tribune August 12, 2007
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-gaygene_bd12aug12,0,5101766.story

The scientists hope that by gathering DNA samples from 1,000 sets of gay brothers like the Mierows they will be able to find genetic linkages smaller studies failed to detect. They’ll be recruiting brothers again at the Halsted Street festival this weekend. The results may ignite controversy, the researchers acknowledge, both by providing ammunition in the raging cultural war over homosexuality and by raising fears about ethically questionable applications like genetic profiling and prenatal testing. But, they argue, the research is essential to our biological understanding of sexual behavior. “In complex gene scenarios, people figured out that you need a larger sample size in order to get reasonable statistical power,” said Dr. Alan Sanders, a psychiatrist at Evanston NORTHWESTERN Healthcare and the leader of the current study.

To increase the chances of finding genetic areas associated with homosexuality, Sanders proposed assembling almost 10 times the sibling pairs of previous studies. The project received funding in 2001 and began recruiting subjects at gay pride festivals, through gay-oriented publications and on the Internet. “The genes would probably be doing their work by affecting sexual differentiation of the brain during prenatal life,” said J. Michael Bailey, a NORTHWESTERN University psychology professor involved with the project. “But what scientists are increasingly appreciating is that genes can affect a trait in ways you could never have guessed.”.

Minorities at higher risk of arthritis disability
Reuters August 10, 2007
http://uk.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUKCOL06298120070810

Black and Hispanic adults with arthritis are more likely than whites to become disabled from the joint disease, new research findings suggest. In a study that followed nearly 7,300 Americans with arthritis for six years, researchers found that African-American patients were twice as likely to develop a disability as their white counterparts. The same was true of Hispanic adults who spoke Spanish as their primary language but not primarily English-speaking Hispanic patients.

A range of factors—from poorer overall health to lack of insurance to less-healthy lifestyles—together explained the racial disparity, the study found. Jing Song and colleagues at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago report the findings in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. The results are based on a national survey of 7,257 adults age 51 and up who had arthritis but were free of major disabilities at the outset. Participants were interviewed every two years between 1998 and 2004. During that time, 28 percent of both African-Americans and Spanish-speaking Hispanic adults developed at least one disability in “activities of daily living,” such as problems with getting out of bed, dressing or bathing.

Test May Help Spot Pancreatic Cancer
WebMD August 1, 2007
http://www.webmd.com/news/20070801/test-may-help-spot-pancreatic-cancer

A new, no-surgery test may help detect pancreatic cancer in its earlier, more treatable stages, scientists announced today. The test isn’t ready for patients yet. But if successful in other studies, it may help people survive pancreatic cancer, which is America’s fourth leading cause of cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society predicts that this year in the U.S., about 37,170 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and about 33,370 will die of pancreatic cancer.

“One of the reasons for this grim prognosis for patients is that we still don’t know how to detect it early enough,” NORTHWESTERN University biomedical engineering professor Vadim Backman, PhD, said in a news conference today. Early detection can make a big difference in survival, and Backman’s team wants to improve patients’ chances with their new test, which is described in today’s edition of Clinical Cancer Research.

Brief flash of fear picked up by brain
United Press International August 1, 2007
http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Health/2007/08/01/brief_flash_of_fear_picked_up_by_brain/5369/

“Microexpressions, such as a brief flash of fear, are unlikely to be consciously noticed, but they get picked up by the brain, U.S. researchers said. These microexpressions can alter perception and the way other people are treated or judged, said Ken Paller, co-investigator of the study and professor of psychology at NORTHWESTERN University, in Evanston, Ill. “Even though our study subjects were not aware that they were viewing subliminal emotional expressions, their brain activity was altered within 200 milliseconds,” Paller said in a statement.

Sometimes when it seems people are acting on the vagaries of instinct, the brain is responding to real information about others that bubbles just beneath consciousness, Paller said. The study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, included tests to determine whether study volunteers had a tendency to experience anxiety, particularly in social situations. Those who tended to be socially anxious had the strongest brain response to subliminal expressions of fear, the study said.

The full text of most stories can be accessed in the Lexis-Nexis database via the Northwestern network at http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe. Stories from major newspaper, wire, television and radio sources can be obtained by selecting “News.” Stories from other media, including local outlets, can be accessed by selecting “Sources” instead of “News.” In both cases, you can search by keywords from the article’s headline. If you are searching by source, you will need to enter the name of the publication in which the article appeared before you enter keywords. Stories that include an html address with the headline can be accessed directly by clicking on the html address.

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