In Brief

In Brief

In The News

December 16, 2005

In Brief:


If it's available, they will eat it

Eating opportunities abound for kids in school, and not just in the cafeteria. Students eat in classrooms and hallways, buy and then nibble at fundraising caramel corn and chocolate. They're rewarded with cookies, candy or even a fast-food coupon when they turn in work on time.

And that puts them at risk for gaining weight, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study by the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, examined data from 3,088 eighth-graders in 16 middle schools.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Health & Science section describing a star where planets like earth may be forming was incorrectly labeled. The label should have read "Astronomy."

It found that students' body mass index, a calculation based on weight and height, was 10 percent greater for each of seven food practice policies allowed in the schools. Those included whether food or beverages were allowed in classrooms or hallways; whether food was used as a reward, or whether individual classrooms or schools raised money by selling food.

"When we talk about food in schools, we need to look not just at cafeterias and vending machines," Kubik says. There's a lot of other school-supported eating going on.



Stopping the spread of human cancer

Scientists at Cornell University say they have found how cancer spreads from a primary location to other sites in the body, a finding that could help lead to new ways of treating and preventing advanced disease.

Instead of a cell just breaking off from a tumor and traveling through the bloodstream to another organ, where it forms a secondary tumor, or metastasis, the cancer appears to send out envoys to prepare the new site. Intercepting those envoys, or blocking their action with drugs, might help to prevent the spread of cancer or to treat it in patients in which it has already occurred, researchers reported this month in the journal Nature.

In animal and laboratory studies, the scientists looked at how breast, lung and esophageal cancers spread.

"We are basically looking at all the earlier steps that are involved in metastasis that we weren't previously aware of. It is complex, but we are opening the door to all these things that occur before the tumor cell implants itself," said Dr. David Lyden, a pediatric oncologist and an author of the study.



Good mental health tied to compassion

Examining the link between religious belief and mental health, researchers have found that compassion is a better explanation for good health than pure religiosity.

Patrick Steffen, lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical psychology at Brigham Young University, said that religious people had the best health in his study, but that when he and his colleagues controlled for compassion, the religion-health relationship vanished.

"What we're interpreting that to mean is that religious people have better health because they're more compassionate," he said. The study involved 441 BYU students and individuals from the surrounding community, all of whom were Mormons.

The study was published in this month's issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine.



A possible sign of more planets

Astronomers have spotted a swirling debris cloud around a sunlike star where terrestrial planets similar to Earth may be forming in a process that could shed light on the birth of the solar system.

The star, 137 light years away, appears to possess an asteroid belt, a zone where the leftovers of failed planets collide. Terrestrial planets are those with rocky surfaces, as opposed to a gas composition.

Scientists estimate the star is about 30 million years old - about the same age as our sun when terrestrial planets like Earth were nearly formed.

Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers at the Space Science Institute measured the temperature of the debris disc to be minus 262 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than other similar discs. The sun has a surface temperature between 5,000 and 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Earlier this year, another team using the Spitzer telescope announced the discovery of another asteroid belt orbiting a 2-billion-year-old sunlike star 35 light years away.



Mice get a dash of human brains

Scientists say they've created mice with small amounts of human brain cells in an effort to make realistic models of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Led by Fred Gage of the Salk Institute in San Diego, the researchers created the mice by injecting about 100,000 human embryonic stem cells per mouse into the brains of 14-day-old rodent embryos. Those mice were each born with about 0.1 percent of human cells in each of their heads, a trace amount that doesn't remotely come close to "humanizing" the rodents.

"This illustrates that injecting human stem cells into mouse brains doesn't restructure the brain," Gage said of the experiments, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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