Specific type of brain plaque linked to disease

In Brief

June 26, 2008

Alzheimer's

Specific type of brain plaque linked to disease

Researchers have uncovered a new clue to the cause of Alzheimer's disease.

The brains of people with the memory-robbing form of dementia are cluttered with a plaque made up of beta-amyloid, a sticky protein. But there long has been a question whether this is a cause of the disease or a side effect. Also involved are tangles of a protein called tau; some scientists suspect this is the cause.

Now, researchers have caused Alzheimer's symptoms in rats by injecting them with one particular form of beta-amyloid. Injections with other forms of beta-amyloid did not cause illness, which may explain why some people have beta-amyloid plaque in their brains but do not show disease symptoms.

The findings by a team led by Dr. Ganesh M. Shankar and Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe of Harvard Medical School were reported in Sunday's online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

Associated Press

Gastric bypass

Surgery said to cut incidence of cancer

Gastric bypass surgery - a treatment for obesity known to reduce heart disease and diabetes - decreases the incidence of cancer by 80 percent over the five years after the procedure, researchers have reported.

The incidence of two of the most common tumors, breast and colon, was reduced by 85 percent and 70 percent respectively, Dr. Nicolas Christou of McGill University in Montreal said. The study confirms the findings of two papers last August that showed the surgery reduced overall deaths from cancer. The new study goes a step further by showing reductions in the incidence of several specific types of cancer, said Dr. Philip Schauer of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

An estimated 205,000 Americans had the surgery last year, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Los Angeles Times

Premature babies

Contact with mothers found to lessen pain

Even very premature babies benefit from skin-to-skin contact with their mothers during painful medical procedures, a Canadian study has found.

Researchers studied 61 infants born at 28 to 31 weeks of gestation (most babies are born at 38 to 41 weeks) who needed to have their heels lanced for blood samples at least twice before leaving the hospital.

The first heel lance was administered with the infants swaddled and lying in their incubators, and the next after the mother had held the diaper-clad infant for 15 minutes between her breasts, providing maximal skin-to-skin contact. Researchers rated the severity of pain by using a scale that measures heartbeat, oxygen saturation of the blood and behavioral indicators such as facial expression.

Average pain scores, reported recently in BMC Pediatrics, did not differ between the two lances at 30 and 60 seconds after the procedure. But by two minutes, babies held by their mothers were in only half as much pain as those in incubators.

New York Times News Service

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