On-Call Specialists At Emergency Rooms Harder to Find, Keep
Washington Post December 21, 2007
Hospital emergency departments across the United States, already struggling with overcrowding and growing patient loads, are increasingly unable to find specialists to help treat seriously injured and ill patients, according to medical experts. “It’s our responsibility to take care of these patients, because that’s what we do. That’s part of our inherent fiber of being an orthopedic surgeon,” said Leon S. Benson, a hand surgeon near Chicago who is active in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a professional association. “But there’s no question that as the inconvenience and fatigue and poor compensation and difficulty in having appropriate resources to take care of patients build up, you get this perfect-storm effect where more and more people are thinking, ‘Gee, I don’t know if I want to do that anymore.’ “
Benson, 47, an associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at NORTHWESTERN University, takes emergency department on-call duty every other day, but he acknowledged that he is the exception these days. “I can understand nationally why this is becoming a bigger issue, because the system is being pressured,” he said. “More volume is getting through a pipe that’s getting smaller in diameter. And then what you actually do while you’re on call gets to be more and more painful.”
What Do Young Adults Know About Winning the War On Wrinkles? Plenty
Chicago Tribune (RedEye Edition) December 20, 2007
Wrinkles are already the enemy of one 28-year-old West Town resident, even though her olive complexion seems devoid of lines. “It’s more common to have even a 20-year-old come into the office and ask what he or she can do to make sure they’re not in here for a face-lift in their 50s,” said Dr. Simon Yoo, an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at NORTHWESTERN University’s medical school and a practicing dermatologist. Yoo said it used to be that older men and women would come in for assistance after wrinkles set in, not before. Now, younger patients want to beat wrinkles before they even arrive. “In our age-obsessed population, where 40 is the new 30, there is an increasing pressure to look your best,” Yoo said.
But Yoo questioned the science behind face yoga. He said having stronger facial muscles has no correlation to how plump your skin appears on the surface. “I wouldn’t suggest that to my patients,” Yoo said of the exercises. “Further, you might make some wrinkles more pronounced by making certain faces.” He said many actions—not just exercise—can result in changes in collagen and elastin, essential fibers that provide skin elasticity and minimize the appearance of wrinkles “These changes are temporary,” Yoo said. “Also, just because there are differences in collagen and elastin makeup that doesn’t necessarily translate into better-looking skin in the long or short term.”
WSET-TV (Roanoke), KGWN-TV (Cheyenne), WCAV-TV (Charlottesville) WCTV-TV (Tallahassee), WEAU-TV (LaCrosse), KVUE-TV (Austin) WTVO-TV (Rockford) Dec. 21.
William Gradishar, MD, professor of medicine, discusses new therapies and treatments for breast cancer.
Kraft Expands LiveActive to Cereal and Drinks
Reuters December 20, 2007
Kraft Foods is expanding foods it says promote healthy digestion, but some analysts are not sure consumers are ready for prebiotic fiber—the additive used in the new products. The company plans to expand the LiveActive brand in January with new Crystal Light drink mix sticks, and a new breakfast cereal, according to Amy Wagner, senior director of integrated marketing at Kraft. While consumers in other countries, such as China and Japan, have embraced the concept of digestive health, it is still relatively new in the United States, said Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The food industry, I believe, is recognizing an awareness and a growing interest in this area,” she said. NORTHWESTERN’s Van Horn also cautioned there was no widespread data showing a healthier population after regularly consuming products that promote digestive health.
Unexpected Rewards in Serving the Underserved
Pioneer Press December 20, 2007
BY DR. RUSSELL ROBERTSON
Recently, my wife, my adult son and daughter and I returned from Belize. While this nation has become increasingly of interest as a tourist spot, that was not the object of our visit. For the past seven years, we have been active in our support of Hillside Healthcare International, www.hillside.net, a small foundation that supports a year-round medical clinic in Southern Belize of which I am the president. Our initial involvement began through a two-week stint working at the clinic. To be quite honest, we were unprepared for the way in which this experience affected us. At the time, my practice as a family physician was devoted to caring for underserved populations and thought that this would be similar save an expected increase in the diagnosis of conditions peculiar to Central American rainforests. While the latter was certainly true, the range of the human conditions we encountered exceeded our expectations at the extremes.
On the one hand, we saw poverty in every imaginable spectrum reflected through the presence of diseases in full flower amplified by parasite infestations and forms of malnutrition. The burden of suffering was immense in a culture strapped for resources leaving many beyond the reach of the most rudimentary forms of therapy.
Dr. Russell Robertson is chairman of Family Medicine at Evanston NORTHWESTERN Healthcare and Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University.
KGUN-TV (Tuscon) Dec. 19.
Reference to research by Lewis Smith, MD, professor of medicine on soy and asthma.
Good News, Bad News about Heart Disease
Ivanhoe Newswire December 20, 2007
Researchers have good news and bad news about heart disease in the U.S. The good news is, fewer people are dying of heart disease overall. The death rate from coronary artery disease in men fell by 52 percent between 1980 and 2002. In women, it dropped by 49 percent. The bad news is, most of the benefit is being seen in older people. When researchers looked just at people age 35 to 54, the findings were anything but reassuring. While death rates did go down over the 22 year period, the rate of decline slowed markedly in younger people. In men, the drop ranged from 6.2 percent per year in the 1980s to just 0.5 percent per year between 2000 and 2002.
Philip Greenland, M.D., F.A.C.C., from NORTHWESTERN University, agreed in an editorial published along with the study. “This should be regarded as a wake-up call for everyone interested in heart disease and heart health. The take-home message is that heart disease has not gone away, continues to be a problem, and could become a greater problem if Americans fail to pay attention to known warning signs like overweight and obesity, and lack of exercise.”
Study: Overexcited Neurons Can Harm Cells
United Press International December 18, 2007
A team of U.S. and Portuguese researchers has found an imbalance in nerve cell signaling can result in protein damage in target cells. The scientists determined the improper signaling can be caused by a genetic mutation or exposure to toxins such as nicotine and lindane, a pesticide. They also found that when nerve cells become overexcited and fire incorrect signals too rapidly, proteins in target muscle cells fold incorrectly and become nonfunctional.
Researchers from NORTHWESTERN University, Harvard University, and Portugal’s University of Lisbon said their study provides strong evidence that nerve cell activity can directly affect the protein folding process in muscle cells. The note that neurodegenerative diseases, certain cancers, muscular dystrophy, and aging cause loss of muscle cell function and their findings might illuminate how that occurs. “We may have discovered an unexpected basis for a number of human diseases,” said Professor Richard Morimoto of NORTHWESTERN University, one the study’s lead authors. “We’ve shown that pesticides…have profound effects on nerve communication—even more than we expected,” he added.
NORTHWESTERN Fetches $700 Million For Drug
Chicago Tribune December 19, 2007
NORTHWESTERN University’s ownership of the key ingredient in a popular painkiller paid off handsomely Tuesday as it sold a portion of royalty rights to the drug Lyrica for $700 million. The university will continue to collect some royalties on the drug, which is marketed by Pfizer Inc. to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes, shingles, and fibromyalgia.
NORTHWESTERN chemists were the first to synthesize the chemical compound pregabalin, which is the basis of Lyrica. NU sold the rights to Royalty Pharma, a New York-based firm with a history of buying royalty rights from research universities. NORTHWESTERN has been using some of its Lyrica royalties bonanza to fund its drive to become the nation’s top nanotechnology research center. The university has vowed to hire more scientific superstars in the coming year, relying on the prestige of its nanotech team and cash from royalty payments to attract more talent. This summer it recruited J. Fraser Stoddart and his team of 20 researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles. Next month Stoddart will join NU stars Chad Mirkin, Mark Ratner and Sam Stupp at the university’s nanotech center.
By accepting a lump sum and depositing most of it in NU’s $6.6 billion endowment fund, the university can grow the amount by earning interest, said Eugene Sunshine, NORTHWESTERN’s senior vice president for business and finance. “You get a big chunk of money now and put the money to work for you,” said Sunshine. “We’ll be able to do more with it than we would’ve been able to do otherwise. It provides more resources to be more competitive in capturing the Professor Stoddarts of the world.” A $95 million life sciences chemistry center, Silverman Hall, is under construction at NU, named for Richard Silverman, the chemist who developed pregabalin. Royalties are being used to help pay for it. The bulk of the $700 million will go into NU’s endowment, but some portion will go to the chemists who synthesized pregabalin.
Typically, the university draws about 5 percent annually from its endowment to support financial aid to students, construct buildings and laboratories, and pay start-up costs for adding new research teams, Sunshine said. The university didn’t specify what portion of its royalty rights were sold to acquire the lump sum and what portion of royalty rights it retains. The size of the payment suggests the market’s
expectations for Lyrica’s future sales. NU’s Lyrica rights are by far the most lucrative bit of intellectual property the university owns, Sunshine said. “This is the kind of thing a research university may get once in a generation,” he said. “We have a lot of other things in the pipeline. Who knows if any will approach this magnitude.”
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Chicago Sun-Times December 19, 2007
CLTV Dec. 19. Reference to Northwestern selling part of its royalty interest in Lyrica.
Associated Press December 19, 2007
NORTHWESTERN Sells Part of Royalty Interest in Drug For $700 Million
Chronicle of Higher Education December 19, 2007
NORTHWESTERN U. Sells Royalty Rights From Blockbuster Drug for $700-Million
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ) December 18, 2007
A scientist slides on a pair of plastic 3-D glasses and an unearthly blue multi-armed creature—an image right out of a sci-fi horror flick—seems to leap out of the computer screen into the laboratory. But this is no movie director’s fantasy. The horror image is real. The eerie “creature” is from the deadly anthrax bacteria—specifically one of its proteins. Scientists at Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University in Illinois are mapping parts of the lethal bacteria in three dimensions, exposing a new and intimate chemical portrait of the biological killer down to its very atoms. This view of the disease is aimed at offering scientists who design drugs a fresh opening into the bacteria’s vulnerabilities, enabling them to create drugs to disable it or vaccines to prevent it.
Group Says Heart and Stroke Deaths Fall in U.S.
Reuters December 18, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Death rates from heart disease and stroke are falling in the United States, but heart and artery disease remains the leading cause of death, the American Heart Association said on Monday. An estimated 869,724 people died from heart disease in 2004, compared with 911,163 in 2003, the heart association said.
The group projected that 770,000 people will have a stroke in 2008, about 600,000 for the first time. “These statistics make it clear that cardiovascular disease remains, by far, our greatest public health challenge,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of the association’s statistics committee. “Although we have made some substantial strides in understanding the causes of cardiovascular disease, the data in this publication show that we have a long way to go to capture people’s attention and to implement the prevention and treatment programs we need,” added Lloyd-Jones, who works at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
U.S. Heart Disease Death Rates Falling
HealthDay News December 18, 2007
Study Backs Newer Techinque for Lung Blood Clots
Reuters December 18, 2007
CHICAGO—A newer type of scan to detect potentially deadly blood clots in the lungs works as well as an older technique it has largely replaced, researchers said Tuesday. A Canadian team led by Dr. David Anderson of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the study was the first to compare computed tomography or CT angiography with the older ventilation-perfusion scans. The older scan uses radioactive material inhaled into the lungs and injected into the blood stream to help rule out blood clots in the lungs.
In an editorial commenting on the study, Dr. Jeffrey Glassroth of the Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago said it “convincingly demonstrates” that the CT approach is not inferior to the older technique.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Reuters December 18, 2007
Study backs newer technique for lung blood clots
HealthDay News December 18, 2007
CT Scans Catch More Clots in Lungs
Chronic Back Pain Limits Brain Power
American Chronicle December 17, 2007
You don’t need to be a scientist to know that chronic back pain can have a negative impact on your life, often bringing with it anxiety and depression. It can affect your ability to work, sleep, and perform other daily activities. Until recently, it has been assumed that whatever changes occurred in the brain as a result of chronic back pain were only temporary and that the brain would revert to a normal state once the pain stopped.
Recent findings by researchers from NORTHWESTERN University have turned this assumption on its head. What they found was that chronic back pain-defined as pain lasting six months or longer-can cause significant and long-lasting damage to the brain, aging it up to 20 times faster than normal.
Tales Naughty and Nice: NICE
Chicago Tribune December 16, 2007
The 10 carolers at Children’s Memorial Hospital take turns sporting the two Santa hats that bounce on their heads as they reach for the high notes like the star atop the highest tree. The children are singing right along with them, despite the gray boxes that monitor, the saline bags that drip and the tubes that slow down a chase for a bouncing ball. After all, this concert by Musicians in Medicine, a group of students from NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, is taking place at the Brown Family Life Center, a circular playroom that is a designated medical-free zone.
Musicians in Medicine, a vocal and instrumental group, perform here most often, about three times this semester and four times during the summer, in addition to NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
On the Radio
“The John Williams Show” (WGN-AM) Dec. 14. Russell Robertson, MD, director of Family Medicine, discusses steroid use.
Breast Cancer: Arimidex vs. Tamoxifen
WebMD December 14, 2007
Even after treatment ends, Arimidex beats out tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer recurrence in women with hormone-fueled tumors. Updated results from this landmark trial also show that the increased risk of fractures associated with Arimidex therapy disappears after treatment stops. In the study, more than 5,000 women with hormone receptorâpositive tumors were followed for more than three years after treatment was stopped. The researchers show that an additional 25 percent of recurrences were prevented by Arimidex, compared with tamoxifen, says John F. Forbes, MD, professor of surgery at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Studies have shown that Arimidex is better at preventing relapses than tamoxifen during the five years that women are being treated with these drugs. What we didn’t know, Forbes says, is what would happen after women stop taking them.
“The news here is that the hoped-for carryover effect seems to be true,” William Gradishar, MD, a breast cancer specialist at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago, tells WebMD. “The safety issue, particularly with regard to bone disease, is reassuring as well,” says Dr. Gradishar, who was not involved with the work.
Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita
Chicago Reader December 14, 2007
Directed by Maria Finitzo, this excellent Kartemquin Films documentary profiles Dr. Jack Kessler, a stem cell expert at NORTHWESTERN University whose work is motivated partly by a desire to regenerate the damaged spinal cord of his teenage daughter. Finitzo’s long-term investigation widens to include other patients with spinal-cord damage and their everyday ways of coping, as well as a couple of Kessler’s graduate assistants as they follow up on lab experiments. What emerges is a multifaceted unpacking and demythification of a loaded subject. 90 min.
“Chicago Tonight” (WTTW) Dec. 13 Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society, discusses the Mitchell report on drug use in baseball.
Researcher: Cause and Treatment for Parkinson’s “In Our Sights”
Scientific American December 13, 2007
A successful treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects 1 percent of the world’s population (an estimated 500,000 people in the U.S.) aged 60 years and over, may be “in our sights now,” says Ronald McKay, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). McKay and colleagues (at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., and at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago) report in the journal PLoS Biology that they tested candidate cells in the brain of embryonic mice to determine which ones produce the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase, a compound manufactured by dopamine neurons to help convert amino acids into precursors of the neurotransmitter.
The team found that such cells are created at the floor plate, a tubular cluster of cells located near the spinal cord, which organizes the developing brain by signaling immature, precursor cells to differentiate into neurons that play a particular role.
Updates… Whatever Happened To?
Scientific American December 2007
Alzheimer’s disease may be a novel variety of diabetes. Researchers at NORTHWESTERN University experimented with a form of amyloid betaÂderived diffusible ligands (ADDLs), which are small, soluble proteins that can travel around the body like hormones. Like amyloid beta and tau proteins, these molecules are often found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Applying ADDLs to mature cultures of hippocampal neurons, the researchers found that the proteins specifically bind to the tips of nerve endings at synapses. This precise attachment quickly shut down the replenishment of insulin receptors by inhibiting their transport from the cell body, where they are manufactured. The resulting resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps cells regulate the metabolism of sugar, destroys the capability of memory neurons to communicate properly.
Based on such evidence, investigators have begun to view Alzheimer’s disease less as nerve cell death and more like synapse failure. According to team leader William Klein, whose work was published August 24 online in the FASEB Journal, this perspective could clarify why some people have an abundant number of plaques yet remain cognitively healthy and why elderly Type 2 diabetics usually have memory problems.
Would You Give This Man $7,500 to Store Your Stem Cells?
Newsday (New York) December 10, 2007
Mark Weinreb, a onetime bagel baron from Long Island, has his sights trained on one of medicine’s hottest commodities: He plans to collect and store adult, or mature, stem cells from people across the country. With scientists racing to find ways to use stem cells to fight disease, Weinreb heads a new company—Manhattan-based NeoStem—that plans to harvest those cells from the blood of Long Islanders for a $7,500 fee, a plan not without skeptics. NeoStem will store the cells indefinitely in case the donor ever needs them.
Weinreb, NeoStem’s president, suggested Newsday contact Dr. Richard Burt, who has spent years researching the use of adult stem cells in autoimmune disorders. Burt, an associate professor at NORTHWESTERN University’s medical school and chief of immunotherapy at NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital, said he has no relationship with NeoStem. He spoke with optimism about the use of adult stem cells. “I never use the word ‘cure,’ but we’ve had some kind of exciting and stunning results,” Burt said. He has reported achieving long-term remissions in some lupus patients and a halt in the progression of Type 1 diabetes in some patients. “The adult stem cell definitely does have clinical applications and uses,” Burt said, while noting the greater potency of embryonic cells. He added that the adult cells are “easy to collect and harvest from a person with little risk.” Stem cells stored in youth might be healthier than those extracted later in life after exposure to disease and aging, Burt said.
First, Do No Harm
Chicago Tribune December 10, 2007
Children’s Memorial Hospital has proven itself not only an excellent health facility but also a good neighbor on Chicago’s North Side. Yet as Children’s seeks city permission to relocate to a site in Streeterville, the hospital has to prove itself anew. Such is the price of attracting patients, visitors, vendors, employees, and medical staffers—plus the traffic and parking pressures they’ll generate—to an already congested part of the city.
Safety is the key concern over helicopter traffic but not the only concern. City Hall also needs to make certain that Children’s is legally bound in the future to a guarantee its current officials offer: that a Children’s heliport wouldn’t evolve into a bustling transport hub for other medical facilities in the neighborhood, NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital included.
On Thursday, Children’s Memorial and NORTHWESTERN University, which is a party to planning decisions that affect the site in question, will seek Chicago Plan Commission approval to start construction next spring on an $800 million hospital that would open in 2012. Today’s capacity of 249 beds would grow to 288, potentially expandable to 313. The footprint would be west of NORTHWESTERN’s new Prentice Women’s Hospital.
KTXS-TV (Abilene), Dec. 10. Reference to research on sleep by Fred Turek, professor of neurobiology and physiology.
Possible Cure for Rare Lymphoma Reported
U.S. News & World Report December 9, 2007
(HealthDay News)—Danish researchers are reporting what appears to be a cure for a rare type of lymphoma that has been regarded as incurable until now. A complex regimen that included immunochemotherapy produced a five-year, event-free survival rate of better than 60 percent in 159 people with mantle cell lymphoma, physicians at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen reported Sunday at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting in Atlanta. The cancer was treated with six cycles of immunochemotherapy, aimed at arousing the immune system, followed by high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell support. Of the 114 people who completed treatment, 72 percent were disease-free at five years.
The report is an outstanding example of the better long- term survival rates for various kinds of blood cancers such as lymphomas being reported at the meeting, said Dr. Jane Winter, professor of medicine (hematology and oncology) at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago. “All kinds of things are happening,” Winter said. “These are exciting times for us all.” The advances being made “really represent a variety of different kind of approaches,” Winter said, with no one thread running through the variety of trials being reported.
Getting Lead Out is a Dirty Job
Chicago Tribune December 9, 2007
Once parents have finished vetting toys for the holiday season, they should take at least one more precaution to safeguard their children from exposure to lead: Remove their shoes. The lead in toys amounts to a mere speck compared with the tons of dust spoiling the environment because of lead-based paints and leaded gasoline of generations past. Merely doffing your shoes at the door can notably reduce the risk of exposure, because tracking in the substance remains a surprisingly common route of contamination even today.
Trouble is, dust tends to flow freely, and relatively clean areas can get dirty in a snap. “There’s no escaping it,” said Dr. Helen Binns, a lead expert and professor at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “You can’t dig up the city. Where are you going to dump it? We don’t really know what to do with it.” None of the worries about lead in the environment should let toymakers off the hook, Binns added. More children are showing up with elevated lead levels from no identifiable source, she said, and toys conceivably could be a factor. “There is no safe level of lead,” she said.
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Dangerous Lead is in Ground Beneath Your Feet
Baltimore Sun December 20, 2007
The Athlete of the Future
Chicago Sun-Times December 9, 2007
Consider the athlete of tomorrow: bio-engineered to be fitter, faster and maybe even older and wiser. Just as comparing Brian Urlacher to Dick Butkus is hardly an apples-to-apples affair, athletes in 2057 will make those of today look slightly anemic. As changes in nutrition, training and sports medicine continue to evolve, it might be that all athletic records will require asterisks—or footnotes—to put a sports figure’s accomplishment in the right context, such as before or after sport- specific training regimens, surgical interventions or legal high- tech performance-enhancers came into play.
“Athletes and people in general are bigger and faster than they once were because of conditioning and nutrition,” said Dr. Gordon Nuber, professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at NORTHWESTERN University’s medical school. ”In 1991, there were 67 [NFL] players weighing in the 300s. In 2003, there were over 350 weighing over 300 pounds.
“People to People” (WGN-TV) Dec. 9. Dr. Rosalind Ramsey-Goldman, research professor of medicine, discusses lupus.
Scents and Sensitivity
Economist December 6, 2007
In a world where sight and sound seem to reign supreme, all it takes is a cursory glance at the size of the perfume industry to realise that smell matters quite a lot too. Odours are known to regulate moods, thoughts, and even dating decisions, which is why any serious romantic will throw on the eau de toilette before going out for a night on the town. Yet in all these cases, those affected are aware of what they are smelling. Unlike the media of sight and sound, in which subliminal messages have been studied carefully, the potential power of subliminal smells has been neglected.
Wen Li and her colleagues at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago are now changing that. In particular, they are investigating smells so faint that people say they cannot detect them. The idea is to see whether such smells can nevertheless change the way that people behave towards others. Dr Li’s experiment, the results of which have just been published in Psychological Science, employed 31 volunteers. These people were exposed to three different odours at low concentration. One was the fresh lemon scent of citral. The second was the neutral ethereal perfume of anisole. The third was the foul sweaty smell of valeric acid. And the concentrations really were low. In the case of valeric acid, for example, that concentration was seven parts per trillion—a level only just detectable by bloodhounds.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Times of India December 7, 2007
Smells decide human likeability: Study
United Press International December 7, 2007
Humans affected by minute smells
Daily Telegraph (LONDON) December 8, 2007
Hidden smells send out strong signals
Revealing ‘Portraits’ of the Rich, generous
Chicago Tribune December 6, 2007
Grants: The National Cancer Institute is giving $25.6 million over five years to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of NORTHWESTERN University.
Exercising Caution on Superbug
Chicago Tribune December 4, 2007
More than a month since the dirty four-letter word burrowed into our brains, everyone from health directors to fear-addled parents seems eager to wash away MRSA. But one group that can’t afford to let its guard down yet—if ever—is athletes. From youth leagues to the pros, from high schools to health clubs, the fittest among us need also be among the wariest of MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a.k.a. the drug-resistant superbug). Tory Lindley is director of athletic training services at NORTHWESTERN University and president of the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association. While he knows of only two MRSA cases during his six years at NU, he urges awareness. “Maybe the most important is reporting all abrasions, cuts, wounds, and skin lesions to an athletic trainer immediately,” Lindley said. “Early, appropriate cleaning and care of any and all lesions….is the best way to prevent infection—MRSA or non-MRSA.”
The State of Tech Transfer
Inside Higher Ed December 4, 2007
As research spending at colleges has risen, so too has the number of new products that emerge from the campuses, according to an annual review of academic intellectual property licensing activities. The Association of University Technology Managers’ U.S. Licensing Activity Survey of 189 institutions that conduct and sometimes commercialize research shows that total research expenditures reached more than $45 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, an increase of $3.1 billion over the 2005 total. That’s the largest absolute increase since 2003, the report says.
NORTHWESTERN University, which didn’t make last year’s top 20 list, jumped from $4 million in licensing income in 2005 to $30 million in 2006, in large part because of Lyrica, a drug (invented by a chemistry professor and a postdoctoral fellow) that treats fibromyalgia, as well as diabetic peripheral neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia, two of the most common forms of nerve pain. Because NORTHWESTERN’s fiscal year runs from September to the end of August, its figures are already out for 2007, showing another increase (to $85.2 million), said Indrani Mukharji, executive director of the university’s technology transfer program.
Nursing Home Eye Care Can Reduce Depression
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) December 3, 2007
Better vision care improves the quality of life and lowers the incidence of depression among people in nursing homes. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said that all it takes is basic eye care, as in eyeglasses and the like. The research team visited residential and nursing homes for elderly people, giving some eyeglasses and waiting two months to give eyeglasses to the other half of the group. “Despite two decades where we’ve seen a declining trend in disability rates, we still see distressingly high rates of disability amongst older adults whose health insurance is largely covered by Medicare,” said researcher Dorothy Dunlop of NORTHWESTERN University. “Older African-Americans and Spanish-speaking Hispanics are at the greatest risk to develop disability.” The results suggest that poverty is the main driver of these disparities. Lifestyle factors also have a large influence. “Weight and low levels of physical activity are strong predictors of disability even after accounting for other influential health and economic factors,” Dunlop said.
Jogging Your Memory
Newsweek December 1, 2007
There is no magic formula for achieving such a memory, although neuroscientist James McGaugh at the University of California, Irvine, is studying Williams for clues. Most of us would be happy just to keep our mental recall from slowing with age—a process that seems to start alarmingly early. “If you’re over 25, you’re one of us—your memory is slipping,” says neurologist Scott Small of Columbia University, who is 46. But scientists now know that much of that deterioration represents a slowing of cognitive function rather than actual memory loss, and they’re busy working on interventions. No one should expect miracles soon, if at all. But the deeper scientists peer into the workings of memory, the better they understand what helps to stave off age-related declines— and the closer they come to devising potential drugs to help.
Mental workouts, too, encourage the formation of neural connections. Last month Peter Penzes at NORTHWESTERN University published a study showing that brain activity boosts the function of a protein called kalirin-7, whose function had been unclear. Penzes demonstrated that kalirin enlarges and strengthens synapses. By contrast, blocking kalirin causes synapses to shrink. “The old saying was right—use it or lose it,” he says.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Chicago Daily Herald November 30, 2007
No Slacking Off
What To Get The Kids? Think Outside The Toy Box
MSNBC November 30, 2007
Dangerous dolls, trains, and other lead-tainted toys. Beads that metabolize into “date-rape” drugs. It’s enough to ruin Christmas for any parent stressing over what’s left to buy the tots this year. Parents should also let this year’s toy caution serve as a reminder that we really should be buying less and keeping the holidays simple and family-focused. “Buy an age-appropriate game and then play it together,” urges Dr. Helen Binns, professor of pediatrics at NORTHWESTERN University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Next Horizon in Stem Cell Research
National Public Radio (NPR) November 30, 2007
(INTERVIEW)…Let me introduce my guests. John Kessler. Dr. Kessler is the Ken and Ruth Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology, chair of the neurology department, and director of NORTHWESTERN University Stem Cell Institute at the Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN in Chicago. He joins us today from WBEZ in the Windy City.
FLATOW: Welcome to the program, Dr. Kessler.
Dr. JOHN KESSLER (Director, NORTHWESTERN University Stem Cell Institute, Feinberg School of Medicine): Thank you. Good afternoon, Ira.
FLATOW: Let’s talk about, Dr. Kessler, last week’s researchers reporting that they could reprogram skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cell. They’re not embryonic stem cells exactly, are they?
Dr. KESSLER: No, they’re not. And that’s something that seems to be lost in a lot of the press reports. It really was a very, very exciting breakthrough. It really taught us a lot about how we can take one type of cell and convert it into a cell with a lot of very different potentials. However, the authors of the studies were very careful to point out that their cells share characteristics of embryonic stem cells, but they are not precisely like embryonic stem cells. So we really have a lot of work to do before we understand exactly whether these cells will be safe to be human—used in human beings and, in fact, whether they can even be used in human beings.
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