New York Times
Viruses as a cure
A recent mouse study published in Nature found that the natural presence of viruses in a gut may play a health-maintenance and infection-fighting role similar to that of the intestinal bacteria that dwell there and make up the microbiome. Dr. Kristine Wylie, who was not involved in the research, speculated that certain viruses might be important partners with the microbiome in real life. “It isn’t hard to imagine that the viral exposures we get as children are important to our development,” she said. Other outlets:
New Scientist Related WUSM news release
If you keep texting, your head will fall off
A recent article in The Washington Post quoted a New York-based spine surgeon saying that ‘text neck’, a purported condition for the spine related to the posture of bending forward to look at a phone, was “an epidemic.” WUSM neurosurgeon Ian Dorward disagreed. “If you apply external weight to the head and then flex it forward, that would be a real issue,” he said. Dorward added that the more important idea that has been studied with regard to forces on the spine is related to obesity. As a person gains weight, their center of gravity moves forward. “That’s a real problem for spine disease,” he said. “Looking down at your phone is not.” Other outlet: Slate
New York Times
Panel rejects sternest FDA warning for steroid shots
Experts advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently decided not to recommend the sternest federal warning on steroid injections for neck and back pain, allowing their use to continue relatively unchanged. The two-day meeting at the FDA’s headquarters in Maryland was closely watched by pain specialists across the country. The administration’s original question was broad, and if the panel had opted for the sternest warning, that could have ushered in sweeping changes to the ways Americans are treated for back and neck pain. However, Dr. William Landau said he believed that the broader category of epidural steroid injections should get the toughest labels. He contended there was little evidence that epidural steroid injections reduced pain.
Schools’ preparedness for kids after concussion can vary
With growing awareness about the dangers of getting kids back on the field after a concussion, all 50 states have enacted ‘return-to-play’ laws that generally require medical clearance before student athletes with concussions can get back to playing sports. But students can and should return to school before they return to sports. “We don’t encourage kids to be out of school for long periods of time,” said Dr. Mark Halstead. “They typically should not be out for more than a few days.”
Federal drug agents launch surprise inspections of NFL teams following games
Federal drug agents recently conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team medical staff. Officials were looking for the distribution of drugs without prescriptions or labels and the dispensing of drugs by trainers rather than physicians. A 2010 study of 644 league veterans from WUSM found that retired NFL players misuse opioids at a rate more than four times that of their peers. Other outlets: Daily Beast, Kansas City Star Related WUSM news release
Drug addiction: The great American relapse
The face of heroin in America has changed. Forty years ago, heroin addicts were overwhelmingly male, disproportionately black and very young – the average age of first use was 16. These days, more than half the heroin users are women, and 90 percent are white, with most first-timers in their mid-20s, according to a study led by WUSM psychiatry professor Theodore Cicero.
Related WUSM news release
Muscle relaxant may treat rare form of diabetes, scientists find
A commonly prescribed muscle relaxant may help treat a rare form of diabetes called Wolfram syndrome. The drug, dantrolene, halts the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in animal models of the disease and in cell models drawn from people who have the illness. Dantrolene is often prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis and has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so researchers hope to begin clinical trials quickly. The study, led by Dr. Fumihiko Urano, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other outlet: News-Medical
U.S. News & World Report
Researchers find gene mutation that may protect against heart disease
Mutations that affect a single gene may significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a recent study. WUSM researchers found that people with rare mutations that switch off a single copy of a specific gene are protected against high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and have a 50 percent reduced risk of having a heart attack. “This analysis demonstrates that human genetics can guide us in terms of thinking about appropriate genes to target for clinical therapy,” said Dr. Nathan Stitziel, the study’s first author. Other outlets: Tech Times, Diabetes Insider Related WUSM news release
British GQ Magazine
Four reasons not to skip leg day at the gym
As part of a workout routine, training legs offers men benefits such as boosting testosterone, increasing muscles and accelerating fat loss. A WUSM study that found that weight training increases the efficiency of the protein GLUT4, which in turn improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, is referenced.
IUDs: Is this kind of birth control right for you?
Younger women often aren’t educated about IUDs, but when cost isn’t an issue and misinformation is dispelled, women are more likely to opt for an IUD as their primary form of birth control. The Contraceptive CHOICE Project, a study of 9,256 women conducted by researchers at WUSM, is referenced.
KSDK-TV NewsChannel 5
How can parents talk to their kids about Ferguson?
WUSM child psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia Rogers offered advice on how to talk to children about the rioting in Ferguson. She suggested that parents be honest about what’s happening, let the child take the lead when talking about the events and limit the child’s television viewing of the coverage.
Investigational treatment shows promise against Marfan syndrome
An investigational treatment for Marfan syndrome is as effective as the standard therapy at slowing enlargement of the aorta, new research shows. The new option is Losartan, a drug commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Standard medical therapy for Marfan syndrome includes giving patients beta blockers. According to study co-author Dr. Alan Braverman, the new drug is an important alternative therapy for patients intolerant to beta blockers. Related WUSM news release
KSDK-TV NewsChannel 5
Toxic turf: Safety concerns over crumb rubber fields
A recent trend in turf athletic fields includes using ground-up rubber to make the playing surface softer. In October, a University of Washington soccer coach discovered 38 former soccer players from across the country are suffering from cancer and all played on ground-up rubber turf fields. Dr. Robert Hayashi said there’s no scientific evidence to believe it’s true.
“Despite all the things we do, all of us are at risk for developing cancer,” he said. Hayashi added that if you consider the other dangers of playing sports, such as traumatic brain or bone injuries, those risks far outweigh the risks of playing on a field with ground-up rubber.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Senior Focus: Preventing malnutrition in older adults
WUSM geriatrics and nutritional science researcher Gabrielle Lyon explained that older adults with chronic diseases and disabilities are at the highest risk for undernutrition, which occurs when a person doesn’t get adequate nutrition from food to function optimally. Some causes of undernutrition in older adults include social isolation, limited finances,
physical disability and medical conditions.
New Alzheimer’s disease fighter may be protein that awakens brain
Scientists at Washington University, who earlier established links between sleep problems and Alzheimer’s, now say a protein that stimulates the brain to awaken from sleep may be a target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. The new research, in mice, demonstrates that eliminating a protein called orexin made mice sleep for longer periods of time and strongly slowed the production of brain plaques. “This indicates we should be looking hard at orexin as a potential target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author David M. Holtzman. Other outlets: News-Medical, Health Canal, International Business Times Related WUSM news release
WFMZ-TV (Allentown, PA)
Gene Therapy: From bench to bedside for hemophilia
Researchers are working on gene therapy for patients with hemophilia B which adds a missing protein to a specially engineered virus that travels to the patient’s liver and transfers the gene. Dr. Katherine Ponder said, “This modifies the disease from a situation where patients might bleed once a week to a situation where they hardly ever bleed.”
Other outlet: WNDU-TV
KSMU-FM Ozarks Public Radio
Missouri working to improve upon “C” premature birth report rating
The causes of premature birth — the No. 1 cause of death for newborns and leading cause of lasting childhood disabilities — remain a mystery. “It’s really the No. 1 issue in obstetrics, and we haven’t made a lot of progress over the years,” said Dr. George Macones. The March of Dimes is leading a new approach to studying the problem by establishing a nationwide Prematurity Research Network. WUSM is the third member of the network and received $10 million from the March of Dimes. That amount will be matched with local funds from the medical school and SLCH Foundation.
Related WUSM news release
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Bacteria test firm wins Startup Challenge
Nanopore Diagnostics, which is developing a test to rapidly detect bacterial infections, has won the $50,000 first prize in this year’s STL Startup Challenge. Nanopore also received a $50,000 Arch Grant and won two Washington University competitions: the $50,000 Olin Cup and the $40,000 Global Impact award. The company was founded by Tom Cohen, PhD, postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Genetics.
WNDU-TV (South Bend, IN)
Transfusions may be key to helping younger victims of sickle cell disease
Dr. Mike Noetzel studied 196 children with sickle cell disease age 5 and older who had brain scans that showed evidence of silent strokes. For three years, 99 children received monthly transfusions; the rest did not receive any treatment. Researchers determined that the transfusions reduced the risk of future strokes of any kind by 58 percent.
Ill winds blow from wind turbines
Dr. Alec Salt and Dr. Jeffery Lichtenhan, authorities in the field of acoustics, have documented the many ways that wind turbine noise can affect the ear, concluding that it is “highly unlikely” that wind turbines don’t present a danger. “Given the present evidence, it seems risky at best to continue the current gamble that infrasound stimulation of the ear stays confined to the ear and has no other effects on the body,” they wrote.