The New Super Pill
Marie Claire May 1, 2008
WHAT THEY ARE: Yaz and Yasmin use a new kind of progestin called drospirenone. (Actually, it’s a diuretic that acts as a progestin.) It eliminates sodium from your tissues, preventing the water retention that many women swear comes with other Pills. While it may prevent bloating, “it’s not a weight-loss pill,” says NORTHWESTERN University ob-gyn Dr. Lee Shulman. The difference between Yaz and Yasmin: Yaz contains fewer placebos and slightly less estrogen. THE DOWNSIDE: Drospirenone helps your body hold on to potassium, which is usually a good thing. But if you’re a heavy user of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) or if you have kidney, liver, or adrenal disease, extra potassium could cause serious heart and health problems.
Gender-Specific Medical Research Could Save Lives of More Women
Chicago Tribune April 29, 2008
For years, clinical studies were done almost entirely on men, and doctors assumed that women would have the same treatment response. It turns out that’s not always true. A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that, for many diseases, women differ greatly from men in their drug reactions, susceptibility and symptoms. Medical institutions have even created research centers dedicated to studying gender differences in disease. In Chicago, NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine recently launched its Institute for Women’s Health Research, to encourage studies on women’s health issues.
As part of that, Sarah Bristol-Gould of the institute is coordinating the Illinois Women’s Health Registry to match scientists with women seeking a role in clinical studies. Scientists need to do still more to fill the gender gaps in medical research, said Teresa Woodruff, executive director of the new institute and a professor at NORTHWESTERN’s medical school. “We talk a lot about personalized medicine, but before you get to true personalized medicine, you have to look at the sex of the person,” Woodruff said.
How Women Differ from Men
Chicago Tribune April 29, 2008
When it comes to health, women are different from men in ways beyond anatomy.
Autoimmune diseases: Most cases of autoimmune disease occur in women. Examples are lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cancer: Breast cancer is not the only cancer that affects more women than men. The American Cancer Society says thyroid cancer occurs about three times more often in women, but researchers are not sure why.
Depression: Women are two to three times more likely to experience depression.
Digestive diseases: Many digestive diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and gallstones, affect women at higher rates than men.
Drug reactions: Women react differently than men to many medications, including antihistamines, antibiotics, and painkillers. They also metabolize certain drugs faster just before their menstrual cycle, which is one reason asthma attacks and epileptic seizures often occur at that time.
Musculoskeletal: Osteoarthritis, hip fractures, and osteoporosis are all more common in women than men.
Smoking: Women are less successful at quitting smoking than men.
Sources: NORTHWESTERN University; Society for Women’s Health Research
Chicago Tribune April 29, 2008
The Institute for Women’s Health Research at NORTHWESTERN University is enlisting women into a registry to match patients with research projects. Called the Illinois Women’s Health Registry, it will link women with scientists conducting university-sponsored studies and clinical trials. The information collected also will help scientists determine health trends among Illinois women. All female Illinois residents 18 years and older are eligible to participate in the free registry. The health questionnaire is available in a paper version or electronic version. For information about the registry, visit whr.NORTHWESTERN.edu, or call 312-503-1308 or 800-984-4947 for a brochure.
Diabetes Rate before Pregnancy Doubles
Wall Street Journal April 28, 2008
In a troubling new perspective on the obesity epidemic, a large study found that rates of women who had diabetes before they became pregnant doubled to nearly 2% from 1999 to 2005. The report is of concern, researchers said, because diabetes increases risk of miscarriage and birth defects and can have a long-term ill effect on women’s own health as well. The results, being published Monday in Diabetes Care, are consistent with other data indicating that women are developing diabetes at younger ages. Fetuses that receive more sugar and other nutrients than necessary in the womb tend to be born larger and with more body fat, which can increase the need for mothers to have caesarean sections. They are also at higher risk of birth defects of the heart, kidney or brain, according to Boyd Metzger, a diabetes and pregnancy expert at NORTHWESTERN University, who also wasn’t involved in the study. In the long term, babies born to diabetic mothers have a greater risk of developing obesity and diabetes themselves.
Study: Back Belts Not Particularly Useful
Occupational Health & Safety April 28, 2008
Lumbar or lower back supports—those large belts that people wear around their waists when they lift or carry heavy objects—are not very effective for preventing low back pain, according to a new systematic review in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Although many people use lumbar supports to bolster the back muscles, they are no more effective than lifting education—or no treatment whatsoever—in preventing related pain or reducing disability in those who suffer from the condition, reviewers found. Joel Press, MD, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, added that the study continues a line of research suggesting lumbar supports make no difference in treating or preventing low back pain. “Looking at the literature on lumbar supports, it is difficult to make any conclusions because these studies are using supports for many different causes of low back pain,” Press said. “It would be hard to prove any one treatment is effective for every type of back pain, just as it would be difficult to prove that any one heart medication would be good for every type of heart problem.”
Chicago Children’s Hospital Reborn
The Bond Buyer April 28, 2008
One week after formally breaking ground on its replacement hospital, Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago enters the market tomorrow with $380 million of fixed-rate new money bonds to help finance construction of a nearly $1 billion 288- bed facility. The hospital is relocating from its current site in the Lincoln Park neighborhood to a downtown site on the campus of NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital’s new Prentice Women’s Hospital. Founded in 1882, the hospital is cramped for space and in need of technological upgrades.
Study Finds Amputations More Likely Among Blacks
Chicago Tribune April 26, 2008
African-Americans living on Chicago’s South and West Sides are five times more likely to have a leg or foot amputated because of diabetes or peripheral vascular disease than whites living in the suburbs and outlying areas, medical researchers at NORTHWESTERN University have found. The statistics are ominous because diabetes rates are expected to rise along with the nation’s obesity epidemic—particularly among African-Americans—which will put greater numbers of people at risk.
Amputation rates are considered the “canary in the coal mine” for quality of care, said lead author Dr. Joe Feinglass, research professor of medicine at NORTHWESTERN’s Feinberg School of Medicine. If patients who are at risk get routine health care and are closely monitored, amputations are preventable, he said. Diabetes is the most frequent cause of lower limb amputations not related to trauma, according to the American Diabetes Association. The risk of a leg amputation is 15 to 40 times greater for a person with diabetes, and more than 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations in the U.S. occur among diabetics. Despite medical advances that make it possible to save limbs, amputation rates are not falling, said Dr. William Pearce, chief of vascular surgery at NORTHWESTERN’s medical school. “We’re not seeing a reduction in amputations, or in the racial disparity, which means we’re missing the boat,” he said.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Reuters April 28, 2008
More limb amputations among blacks in Chicag study
Chicago Sun-Times April 27, 2008
Black amputation rate higher
Fertility Test Claims to Measure Good Eggs
Chicago Tribune April 23, 2008
A new medical test for women who want to check their biological clocks is debuting in Chicago amid concerns about its usefulness and enormous interest in the consequences of delayed childbearing. Called Plan Ahead, it is the first fertility test that purports to measure a woman’s “ovarian reserve”—how many good eggs she has available for conception.
But some fertility experts worry that the sales pitch will capitalize on women’s anxieties and note that the test’s reliability has not been clearly established. “Given the state of the science, I think it’s premature to offer this test,” said Dr. Ralph Kazer, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Repromedix has yet to publish results in a peer-reviewed journal from a study of 200 women that the company said correlated women’s ovarian reserve scores with the number of eggs produced when they undergo ovarian stimulation. That troubles Kazer, of NORTHWESTERN, who thinks the clinical data should be thoroughly vetted before Plan Ahead is marketed to women. “What if some women take the test, get a good score and choose to delay having a child,” only to learn later that another issue is interfering with their fertility, such as abnormalities in the reproductive tract, he asked.
Woman Stays Active Despite Parkinson’s
Joliet Herald News (IL) April 23, 2008
A Crest Hill resident says she’s not going to let a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease get in her way of enjoying life. Evonne Cook, 76, said it’s like something a young man at her church shared with her about life’s difficulties: It’s not about weathering the storm, it’s about dancing in the rain. She and her family were devastated, but her Seattle son refused to accept the diagnosis. He got online immediately and called her with a reference to a program he found in Chicago. Cook soon had an appointment with neurologist Dr. Tanya Simuni, director of NORTHWESTERN University’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center. “Once I saw her, my life totally turned around,” Cook said. Simuni told Cook she did not have MSA but had Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that progresses much slower than MSA and is not anywhere near as problematic.
CN Champions Child Health and Safety Through $1 Million Donation to Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago
CNN Money April 22, 2008
CN (TSX: CNR) (NYSE: CNI) announced today that it has donated $1 million to Children’s Memorial Hospital. This gift will be directed to the hospital’s Safe Kids Chicago program and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, scheduled to open in 2012. In recognition of this gift, Children’s Memorial will name a space in the emergency department of the new facility: the CN Triage Area. Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago, is recognized as one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country by rankings published in U.S. News & World Report. Its physicians are on the faculty at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. As a not-for-profit organization, Children’s Memorial relies on philanthropy to help provide care to more than 113,000 patients and their families every year.
Heart Tests Urged before Children Take ADHD Drugs
Calgary Herald (Alberta) April 22, 2008
Every child prescribed Ritalin or other ADHD drugs should first get heart tests to check for conditions that could put them at risk of sudden unexpected death, U.S. experts are recommending. The drugs—among the most widely prescribed pills to Canadian children—can increase blood pressure and heart rate, side effects that could be dangerous for children with known heart problems or heart defects. But some children can have undiagnosed heart conditions without showing any symptoms.
“They might get a little bit dizzy when they exercise or they might feel fluttering heartbeats or a near fainting spell that they don’t bother to worry about,” says Dr. Catherine Webb, professor of pediatrics at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and chair of the council on cardiovascular disease in the young at the American Heart Association.
Surgery Without Scars is No Longer Far-Fetched
Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) April 20, 2008
[The] surgeons have performed six through-the-mouth gallbladder operations at Good Samaritan since May 2007. They had hoped to complete 25 cases by early 2008. Swanstrom says patients have been willing, but health insurers have not wanted to pay for the experimental surgery. More than half of patients randomly surveyed in doctor offices said they would prefer to have through-the-mouth surgery rather than conventional operations if they had to have their gallbladder removed, Swanstrom says a study by Legacy Health System and NORTHWESTERN University found. “I think it’s the lure of not having your skin broken, not having an incision that must appeal to something basic in humans,” the surgeon says. “You don’t have to think about that knife cutting through your skin.”
Heart Disease Linked to Bad Diet, Urine Shows
Telegraph (UK) April 21, 2008
The leading cause of heart disease and stroke has been linked for the first time to a person’s diet and chemicals in the urine. In the first study of its kind to link blood pressure to a person’s “metabolic fingerprint”, a measure of how they process food, the good news is that genes do not seem to be to blame. Diet and gut bugs appear largely responsible for high blood pressure, which will give a boost for efforts to provide new health advice. The study reveals a fundamental difference in what is happening in the western and eastern guts that could be linked with high blood pressure, which affects 16 million people in the UK alone and is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.
Prof. Jeremy Nicholson and his team, working with colleagues in NORTHWESTERN University, report in the journal Nature how they analysed the metabolic fingerprints of 4,630 middle aged adults in the UK, USA, China, and Japan, by using a method called NMR spectroscopy on their urine samples, which reveals the way food is broken down in the body. Professor Nicholson says the find will “give us important clues as to the causes of major health problems such as high blood pressure”. “Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person’s diet and how much they drink are contributing to their risks for certain diseases,” he said.
‘Pregnancy’ as a Diet Craze
Chicago Tribune April 20, 2008
Ask an obese man to take a pregnancy test, and there’s a chance he’ll test positive. That’s because men and women throughout the country are latching on to a weight-loss craze—the HCG diet—and injecting themselves with pregnancy hormones in order to shed pounds. Logically speaking, the diet makes sense, said Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at NORTHWESTERN University, who studied the weight-loss method. But he doesn’t support it. “It’s a waste of money, time and effort,” he said. The HCG diet was actually created decades ago in Europe, and although it moved through the United States about 30 years ago, it has been resurrected in recent months because people are looking for a quick solution more than ever before, said Kushner, who reviewed the studies when they arrived here in the 1970s.
Although using HCG for weight loss hasn’t been shown to do any damage, Kushner said, it doesn’t have any effect on losing the pounds. What did have an effect, he said, was the 500-calorie diet that many of the HCG patients adhered to, in addition to the injections.”There are so many people who are struggling to manage their body weight, and they’re frustrated, anxious, desperate to get their weight under control,” Kushner said.
Court Denies Bid to Sterilize Mentally Disabled Woman
Chicago Tribune April 18, 2008
Disability rights advocates and medical ethicists praised a precedent-setting ruling Friday by the Illinois Appellate Court denying a bid to sterilize a mentally disabled woman against her will. The woman, identified only as K.E.J. in court records, isn’t capable of raising a child on her own, but her guardian
failed to prove that sterilization would be in her best interests, a three-judge panel in Chicago ruled unanimously. “It’s extraordinarily significant” because it guarantees the disabled a court hearing, said Katie Watson, a NORTHWESTERN University professor who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of about two dozen medical ethicists. “In the past, this was a decision that could be made between a guardian and a doctor,” she said. “The decision must be moved into the light.”
Health & Family Calendar
Pioneer Press April 17, 2008
Women are invited to help advance research in women’s health by joining the new Illinois Women’s Health Registry. The registry, created by the Institute for Women’s Health Research at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, was developed to encourage researchers to focus on women’s health topics and give women living in Illinois the chance to be part of university-sponsored research studies and clinical trials. All female Illinois residents 18 years and older, regardless of health status, are eligible to participate in the free registry. The health questionnaire is available in a paper version or electronic version. The registry will link women interested in participating in innovative research projects with scientists and physicians who are seeking women for their studies. The information collected also will help researchers analyze health status and trends in Illinois women.
KSJB-TV (Kansas City) April 16.
Reference to research by Charles Davidson, MD, professor of medicine, on heart attacks.
Splints as Good as Plaster Casts for Minor Fractures
HealthDay News April 15, 2008
WEDNESDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) A review of past research shows cheaper, removable splints are as safe and effective as traditional plaster casts for treating minor wrist fractures in children. But one U.S. orthopedic expert disagrees, saying that kids may be tempted to take off the split at inappropriate times and cause further damage to themselves. “Yes, you can treat a child’s buckle fracture with a splint, but I don’t,” Dr. Leon Benson, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), said in a prepared statement. “In my experience, a child under 10 is not going to keep a splint on, and who is going to take responsibility for that fact—the doctor. And, given that fact, what parent wants to sit on pins and needles waiting for it to happen when a safe plaster cast ensures it won’t?”
Benson agreed with the reviews conclusions in theory but not in practice. “My experience is that the younger child’s pain decreases dramatically more quickly with plaster casting than a splint, and adolescents in splints often remove them around their friends, because they find them embarrassing,” said Benson, who is also associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Gel Enables Severed Spinal Cord Fibers to Regrow
Washington Post (HealthDay News) April 10, 2008
A nano-engineered gel that inhibits the formation of scar tissue at the site of a spinal injury and enables severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate has been developed by researchers at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago. They noted that nerve fibers do have the ability to regrow after a spinal injury, but they’re blocked by scar tissue that develops around the injury. After the gel is injected as a liquid into the spinal cord, it self-assembles into a scaffold that supports new nerve fibers as they grow up and down the spinal cord and penetrate the site of the injury. Six weeks after the gel was injected into mice with a spinal cord injury, the mice showed great improvement in the ability to use their hind legs and walk. The research was published in the April 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. “We are very excited about this. We can inject this without damaging the tissue. It has great potential for treating human beings,” lead author Dr. John Kessler, a professor of stem cell biology at NORTHWESTERN’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement…
Breast Cancer Lymph Node Biopsy May Need Closer Look
HealthDay News April 9, 2008
A new long-term analysis of breast cancer patient survival suggests it might be time to update the way pathologists test lymph node biopsies. A team of New York City physicians found about one in four patients originally declared to be free of cancerous cells in their sentinel lymph nodes were actually not cancer-free and that tiny cancer remnants called micrometastases reduced the women’s survival over a 20-year period. “This is the first study to show that there is a survival impact for the detection of micrometastases,” said Dr. Stephen F. Sener, professor of surgery at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
WMAQ-TV April 8.
John Friedewald, MD, assistant professor of surgery, comments on quadruple kidney transplant.
Scientists Block Prostate Cancer Cells’ Spread
HealthDay News April 8, 2008
Interrupting communication between cancer cells and cells that promote inflammation blocks an early step in prostate cancer cell’s spread, a U.S. study finds. According to researchers from NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, the findings suggest new ways to control the spread of cancer. They also suggest that existing anti-inflammatory drugs might be useful in controlling inflammation-associated cancers. Recent studies have suggested an association between chronic inflammation and cancers of the prostate, colon, stomach, and liver, according to background information in the study, which was expected to be presented April 8 at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego. In earlier studies, Dr. Paul Lindholm and his colleagues at NORTHWESTERN found that prostate cancer cells have a higher-than-normal density of macrophages and monocytes, cells that play an important role in immune responses and the development of inflammation.
Too Much Salt?
WFTV (Orlando, Fla.) April 8, 2008
BACKGROUND: The human body needs salt to function. Sodium is the main component of the body’s extracellular fluids, and it helps carry nutrients into the cells. Sodium also helps regulate other body functions, such as blood pressure and fluid volume, and sodium works on the lining of blood vessels to keep the pressure balance normal. But, Alicia Moag-Stahlberg, a research nutritionist at NORTHWESTERN University’s medical school in Chicago, says what most people don’t realize is that the amount of salt we actually need “is minor.”
‘Diets’ That Promote Health (and Always Have)
U.S. News & World Report April 7, 2008
That pyramid—like other recently devised dietary guides built on age-old traditions—represents a way of looking at nutrition that’s gathering steam these days. Rather than reducing a diet to its essential foods and then foods to their essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and other chemicals—and trying to isolate those that may contribute to good health, researchers are increasingly taking a step back and correlating health with broader eating patterns. “What we’re talking about is the background diet,” says Linda Van Horn, acting chair of preventive medicine at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s not the occasional hot fudge sundae or brownie; rather, it’s the day-to- day, meal-to-meal, bite-to-bite: What is it that appears in your mouth?”
With a Microphone, Memories Saved
Chicago Tribune April 6, 2008
Mary Ann Becklenberg and her daughter, Mary O’Donnell, have always enjoyed an unusually close bond, with few secrets between them. But whatever intimate, unspoken feelings remained were aired recently at, of all places, a radio microphone. The women were participants of StoryCorps, the largest national oral history project of its kind, sponsored by National Public Radio and the Library of Congress. The endeavor was in Chicago recently, capturing the experiences of average Americans, preserving them for future generations. The session took place at NORTHWESTERN University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, one of five local sites. The same week StoryCorps was in Chicago with its “Memory Loss Initiative,” new research revealed Americans are developing Alzheimer’s at an accelerated rate. One out of eight Baby Boomers is expected to struggle with the progressive brain disease.
Nanotechnology May Help Spinal Cord Injury
United Press International April 7, 2008
U.S. researchers say they have created a nano-engineered gel that can enable severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow. Spinal cord injuries often lead to permanent paralysis and loss of sensation because the damaged nerve fibers can’t regenerate, NORTHWESTERN University scientists said. Although nerve fibers or axons have the capacity to re-grow, they don’t because they’re blocked by scar tissue that develops around the injury. The nanogel developed at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine inhibits formation of scar tissue and enables the severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow, the scientists said.
The gel is injected as a liquid into the spinal cord and self-assembles into a scaffold that supports new nerve fibers. When the gel was injected into mice with a spinal cord injury, after six weeks the animals had a greatly enhanced ability to use their hind legs and walk. “It’s important to understand that something that works in mice will not necessarily work in human beings,” said study leader Dr. John Kessler, who noted that if the gel is eventually approved for humans, a clinical trial could begin within several years. The research is reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Chemistry World April 8, 2008
Nanofibres reconnect nerves
United Press International April 7, 2008
Nanotechnology may help spinal cord injury
Washington Post (HealthDay News) April 10, 2008
Gel Enables Severed Spinal Cord Fibers to Regrow
From ‘Boot Camp’ to Ballet Class
Associated Press April 7, 2008
New research suggests chronic pain affects the brain’s ability to rest, disrupting a system that normally charges up some brain regions and powers down others when a person relaxes. “I ask a patient who has had chronic pain for 10 years to put the mind blank, don’t think about anything,” said Dr. Dante Chialvo, a researcher at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who is not involved with the boot camp. MRI images show the pain sufferer’s brain lighting up but not as a normal brain at rest would, he said. “There is an objective biological difference in the brain.” The early findings could explain the sleep disturbances, decision-making problems and mood changes that often accompany chronic pain, he said.
How Sick Is Too Sick?
Chicago Tribune April 6, 2008
So how sick is too sick? There are some clear indicators on when adults should put on their pajamas and head back to bed. Consider staying home.
If you have abdominal pain. It may be a precursor to vomiting or diarrhea, said Dr. Russell Robertson, professor and chair of family medicine at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
If you are experiencing frequent vomiting or diarrhea. Robertson said working with these symptoms may be difficult, to say the least, and both could be a sign of a viral illness.
If you have an incessant cough or yellow-greenish sputum. Both are indicators of an upper-respiratory infection, and Robertson recommended seeing a doctor and staying home from work because the infection could be passed to co-workers.
If you feel light-headed, have a poor appetite or dark urine. These symptoms suggest dehydration, and mental focus may be affected. For a dehydrated and lethargic person, “simply driving to work can be dangerous,” Robertson said.
If you have been diagnosed with an infection and just started taking antibiotics. Robertson said it’s best to stay home for at least 24 hours so the medicine can take effect. This will reduce the risk of sharing the infection.
In a Rush? Learn to Ease ‘Hurry Sickness’
Boston Globe April 6, 2008
Call it the hurry syndrome. We are a nation in a rush. But are we gaining on life by perpetually racing the clock or perhaps losing something by turning our days into an unending sprint? Researchers at NORTHWESTERN University in Evanston, Ill., tracked young adults ages 18 to 30 for 15 years and found that those with high TUI had nearly double the risk of developing high blood pressure than those with the lowest levels of impatience.
KJRH-TV (Tulsa), WITN-TV (Greenville, NC), WETC-TV (Wilmington, NC), WCSH-TV (Portland, ME), WLBZ-TV (Bangor) April 6. Dr. Charles Davidson, professor of cardiology, discusses heart attack symptoms.
WGN-TV April 4.
Dr. Leon Platanias, professor and deputy director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, discusses arsenic therapy for leukemia.
Nonprofit Hospitals, Once for the Poor, Strike It Rich
Wall Street Journal April 4, 2008
Nonprofit hospitals, originally set up to serve the poor, have transformed themselves into profit machines. And as the money rolls in, the large tax breaks they receive are drawing fire. At some nonprofits, the good times are reflected in new facilities and rich executive pay. Flush with cash, NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital in Chicago has rebuilt its entire campus since 1999 at a cost of more than $1 billion. In October it opened a new women’s hospital that features marble in the lobby, birthing rooms with flat-screen televisions, 1,000 works of art and a roof topped with 10,000 square feet of gardens. In 2006 NORTHWESTERN Memorial’s former chief executive officer, Gary Mecklenburg, received a $16.4 million payout.
But NORTHWESTERN Memorial has been frugal in its spending on charity care, the free treatment for poor patients that nonprofit hospitals are expected to provide in return for the federal and state tax breaks they receive. In 2006 NORTHWESTERN Memorial spent $20.8 million on charity care—less than 2 percent of its revenues and a fraction of what it received in tax breaks. By comparison, the hospitals run by Cook County, where NORTHWESTERN Memorial is located, spent 14 percent of revenues on charity care. NORTHWESTERN Memorial says that in addition to charity care, it provides other benefits to its community, such as pioneering research in obstetrics and other areas that improve standards of care nationally.
Organ-Transplant Experts Face An Array of Ethical Questions
Chicago Tribune April 4, 2008
The most vexing challenges in organ transplantation used to center on what medicine couldn’t do. But scientific advances have made transplants possible that were unimaginable even a few years ago, ushering in an era where social and ethical considerations take center stage. Participants at the 2 1/2-day conference, organized by the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, Chicago Transplant Ethics Consortium and NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, plan to develop non-binding consensus positions on selecting transplant recipients as well as solicitation and compensation of living donors.
KFDX-TV (Wichita Falls), KOBI-TV (Medford), KMTR-TV (Eugene), KSBW- TV (Monterey), WILX-TV (Lansing), WJHG-TV (Panama City), WKTV-TV (Utica), WALB-TV (Albany), CHEK-TV (Vancouver), WITN-TV (Greenville), WPTZ-TV (Burlington), KOMU-TV (Columbia), KCWY-TV (Casper), WVTM-TV (Birmingham), KOB-TV (Albuquerque), WCYB-TV (Tri- Cities), WKTV-TV (Utica), WSLS-TV (Roanoke),WBOY-TV (Clarksburg), WAVY-TV (Norfolk), WSFA-TV (Montgomery), WEEK-TV (Peoria), WREX-TV (Rockford), KSNF-TV (Joplin), WMC-TV (Memphis), KTSM-TV (El Paso), WLBT-TV (Jackson), KTEN-TV (Sherman), KJRH-TV (Tulsa), KLLI-TV (Dallas), WIOD-TV (Miami) April 3.
Reference to research by Charles Davidson, MD, professor of medicine, on symptoms of a heart attack.
Mini Stem-Cell Labs
Technology Review April 2, 2008
Stem-cell therapies are often touted as the future of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. But one of the challenges to developing such therapies is creating an environment in which stem cells can grow. An additional hurdle involves designing a vehicle to deliver stem cells to their target, without being detected by the body’s immune system. Now scientists at NORTHWESTERN University have engineered a “miniature laboratory” in the form of a tiny, gel-like sac. They successfully grew stem cells within the sac, delivering proteins and nutrients to the cells through the sac’s membrane. Researchers say that the sac may act as a delivery system for stem cells and other drugs, shielding them until they reach their target.
Samuel Stupp, lead researcher and board of trustees professor of materials science and engineering, chemistry, and medicine at NORTHWESTERN, says that the discovery may have promising applications in cell therapy and regenerative medicine. “You could transplant these sacs inside a patient,” says Stupp. “And in the sac, the cells would be protected, until they get more established in an organ or tissue. Then the sac should be able to biodegrade.” The team developed the sac after months of mixing various molecular solutions together. “When we would mix solutions, we would sometimes get a cloudy solution or precipitates, but nothing we thought was interesting,” says Stupp. “And one good day, my postdoc walked into my office with a sac, and I knew we had something good. And then we spent more than a year trying to understand what happened.”
Genomic Profiling of Breast Cancers a Better Treatment Tool
Washington Post (HealthDay News) April 1, 2008
Determining the genetic profile of a breast tumor, along with an assessment of a patient’s clinical characteristics, can help predict prognosis and guide treatment choices, a Duke University study concludes. The study was published in the April 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. This study “demonstrates the potential value of using microarray-based gene signatures to refine outcome predictions,” Chiang-Ching Huang and Markus Bredel, of the Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Forbes Hosts Briefing Celebrating Breakthroughs in Stem Cell Research
States News Service April 1, 2008
The following information was released by the office of Virginia Rep. J. Randy Forbes:
Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) announced today that he recently hosted a briefing for Members of Congress and staff on breakthroughs in stem cell research. Richard Burt, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Immunotherapy for Autoimmune Diseases at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. briefed the audience on the dramatic success he has seen when treating patients with therapies derived from their own adult stem cells.
Newsweek March 31, 2008
Technically speaking, they are glands whose primary purpose is to produce milk. But while other glands, like your thyroid and your pancreas, go about their business with little attention, your mammary glands—otherwise known as your breasts—have come to represent so much more than a source of nutrition for newborns. Every week gossip columnists blast news of another celebrity who has gone under the knife to enhance her cleavage. Google “celebrity boob jobs” and you’ll come up with thousands of sites cataloging the good, the bad and the ugly. Depending on where they live, women can shell out as much as $10,000 in total costs. Many may consider it money well spent because of the self-esteem boost they get from “fixing” small or saggy breasts. Younger women are primarily looking to enlarge breasts that they perceive as undersize, while older women want to restore the look of their breasts before they had children, says Dr. Laurie Casas, associate professor of surgery at NORTHWESTERN University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. It may be easy to forget, with all the tabloid talk about “boob jobs,” that breast augmentation is real surgery, with potential complications. “It’s like any decision you make,” Casas says. “You listen to the pros and cons and you weigh them.” A responsible surgeon should spend a good deal of time discussing those pros and cons with patients.
Diabetes Increases Heart Attack Risk
WebMD March 31, 2008
In a joint statement issued last week by the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology, experts concluded that persons with diabetes might need even more aggressive cholesterol lowering than current guidelines suggest. But many diabetic people remain unaware of their risk, and most are not being treated as aggressively as they should be, NORTHWESTERN University professor of preventive medicine Martha L. Daviglus, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. “Little by little I think people are beginning to understand the dreadful consequences of diabetes, but we have to do more to make patients aware,” she says. “It has been considered just another risk factor for heart attack and stroke. We now know that it is much more than this.”
Daviglus, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, says in addition to aggressive drug treatment, patients need to understand the importance of making lifestyle changes that can lower their cardiovascular risks. Those lifestyle changes include losing weight, stopping smoking, and exercising regularly. “We now know that diabetes is a totally reversible risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” she says. “That is very important for patients to remember.”
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