In Brief

In Brief

November 24, 2006

Rheumatology

Joints may benefit from bone drug

A drug that strengthens aging bones may also protect patients' joints from osteoarthritis, according to a study by a Johns Hopkins University rheumatologist.

Dr. Clifton Bingham and colleagues studied the effect of risedronate, commonly marketed as Actonel, on a group of 2,483 arthritic men and women from the United States and Europe. Researchers measured the amount of cartilage at the one- and two-year point and used blood tests to look for more cartilage breakdown.

"The blood tests revealed not only that risedronate stabilized bone loss, but also that it was most likely slowing the breakdown of cartilage too," Bingham said.

However, investigators did not see a significant reduction in joint pain with risedronate compared with the placebo.

"We are not recommending that everyone with arthritis run out and get a prescription for these kinds of drugs, nor are we suggesting at this time that doctors use risedronate as an arthritis treatment," Bingham said. "But what we can say now is that drugs affecting bone turnover need to be further evaluated for their potential effects as arthritis therapies."

The study was reported in the medical journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Sun staff

Events

UM institute plans for World AIDS Day

The University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology will recognize World AIDS Day next Friday with a speakers series, candlelight vigil and art exhibit featuring work by people living with HIV/AIDS.

Among the activities:

Patient quilt display, IHV lobby, 725 W. Lombard St.

Educational information and exhibits, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., UM Medical Center, 22 S. Greene St.

Free HIV screenings, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Evelyn Jordan Center, 16 S. Eutaw St.

Dr. Robert Gallo and other experts speak about the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS, 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m., IHV lobby.

Candlelight vigil, 6 p.m., IHV.

Jonathan Bor

Patient care

Hospital infections from bad hygiene

Infections acquired in hospitals arise mainly from poor hygiene in hospital procedures, not from how sick patients were when they were admitted, according to three new studies.

The studies, published this week in the American Journal of Medical Quality, provide new evidence for experts who argue that hospitals could prevent many infections that afflict patients nationwide.

"It's the process, not the patients," said David Nash, the journal's editor.

Nash said health professionals should do more to promote hand washing among medical staff, take greater care in donning gowns and use other infection-prevention measures.

Chicago Tribune

Genetics

Cottonseed may be food source

Cotton, one of the most important crops for clothing and shelter, may also become a source of food, thanks to a genetic modification that produces seeds with little or no gossypol, a substance poisonous to humans.

Researchers at Texas A&M University reported in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that their modified plants continue to have gossypol in their stems and leaves - where it helps resist insects - but the chemical is significantly reduced in the seed.

Worldwide, 44 million tons of cottonseed are produced annually in 80 countries. The seeds, which contain 23 percent protein, traditionally have been pressed for oil and used as cattle feed. But, with the gossypol removed, the meal can be ground into flour and used in human cooking, researchers said.

Associated Press

Dermatology

Skin cancer risk high for runners

Marathon runners are more likely to get skin cancer than those who don't run marathons because they're exposed to more ultraviolet radiation while training, according to a study released this week in the Archives of Dermatology.

Skin damage that suggested the possibility of cancer, along with a variety of irregular moles and liver spots, were found in 24 of 210 marathon runners, compared with 14 of 210 nonmarathon runners in a study done at the Medical University of Graz in Austria.

Runners who said they ran more than 43.5 miles a week had the highest evidence of skin damage.

"This study should not stop people from running," said Warren Heymann, head of the dermatology division at New Jersey's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, whose research was cited in the study. "You have increased exposure to the elements for long periods of time whether you're a marathon runner or sitting in a canoe or whether you're fishing."

Instead, runners should wear clothes that cover their arms, necks and backs, use waterproof sunscreen and train during times that will reduce exposure to ultraviolet light, which causes skin cancer, according to Heymann and the study's authors.

Bloomberg News Service

Longevity

Bad habits cut chance of long life

It's not easy to reach middle age without accruing at least one bad health habit or risk factor, but men who do so are often rewarded with a long life. That's the conclusion of scientists who followed more than 5,800 Japanese-American middle-age men in Hawaii beginning in 1965.

Over periods up to 40 years, those who had avoided risk factors such as smoking, obesity, excessive drinking and developing hypertension and high blood sugar had a good chance of reaching old age - some without evidence of disease or physical or cognitive impairment.

The chance of survival to age 85 is as high as 69 percent in men with no risk factors at middle age and as low as 22 percent in men with six or more risk factors. Grip strength - a measure of physical fitness - was associated with longevity, while not having a marital partner was associated with death before age 85.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Los Angeles Times

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