Saturday, January 05, 2008

Can medication diminish brain damages caused by Epileptic seizures?

For some epilepsy patients, the aftereffects of their seizures can be as troubling as the seizures themselves. Often, patients can be left with mental impairment, including memory loss, slowed reactions and reduced attention spans from those unpredictable electrical storms that explode across their brains.

But now scientists at Washington University in St. Louis say they not only have seen physical changes in the brain caused by seizures, but also have blocked those changes in animals.
"Assuming that these structural changes are linked to cognitive impairment -- and there's a lot of data to suggest that's true -- then this could provide us with a path to therapies that reduce cognitive problems in epilepsy," said Dr. Michael Wong, senior author of the report.

Approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of the general population suffers from some form of epilepsy. Severe or prolonged seizures can cause brain cell death, leading to anatomic damage visible on brain scans. But in some cases, the cognitive impairments caused by seizures cannot be linked to discernible damage.

In studies on mice, Wong and his team found that induced seizures caused almost immediate damage to dendrites, a structure on nerve cells that receive signals. By administering a drug known as FK506 before inducing the seizures, a major part of the damage was prevented.
"To follow up, we're going to be looking at whether we can tie those changes in dendrite structure to behavioral changes in the mice," Wong said. "We're also going to be searching for drugs that can reverse this effect after a seizure happens.

"We would like to avoid putting epilepsy patients on a new drug all the time and hope instead to find something that can be given immediately after a seizure to prevent cognitive impairment."

Children's Hospital

Transplant pace sets record

Last year proved to be a record-setter at St. Louis Children's Hospital, which performed more heart transplants in 2007 than in any other year in its history.

Cardiothoracic surgeons performed 25 transplants last year, breaking the old record of 24 in 1996. Dr. Charlie Canter, who directs the hospital's pediatric transplant program, attributes the increasing volume to a changing attitude toward transplantation in young patients.

"More pediatricians are becoming more comfortable with using transplantation to treat end-stage heart disease in children," he said. "Whereas years ago it may have been considered a heroic or extraordinary measure, today heart transplantation is as accepted as a kidney or liver transplant."
In addition, the hospital dedicated a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit last May to bring new technology and more specialized care to cardiac transplant patients.

Study: Restless legs a risk factor

People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart disease compared to people without the disorder, according to a new study published in today's issue of Neurology.

Moreover, researchers found that the risk is greatest among those who have the most frequent and severe symptoms.

The study was the largest of its kind involving both men and women. It followed nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 68. It found people with RLS were more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease even when results were adjusted for age, sex, race, body mass index, high blood pressure and a half-dozen other variables.

"Most people with RLS have as many as 200 to 300 periodic leg movements per night of sleep, said Dr. John Winkelman of the Harvard Medical School, who wrote the study. "These leg movements are associated with substantial acute increases in both blood pressure and heart rate, which may, over the long term, produce cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease."

Panel focuses on incontinence

One in four U.S. adults can expect to experience incontinence at some point in their lives, and the federal government wants new treatments to be found -- and more sufferers to talk about it.
Women are most prone to incontinence, which is the inability to control urination or bowel movements. But everyone's risk rises as they age, especially people who are overweight and sedentary.

With the population growing older and fatter, scientists convened by the National Institutes of health issue recently issued an urgent call for research to find better ways to prevent the problem and to remove the stigma so more people will seek help.

Today, fewer than half of people with incontinence volunteer their symptoms to a doctor despite the availability of effective treatments, the panel found. The panel acknowledged that prevention would be better, but major gaps in the understanding of the physiology of the problem currently hinder that effort. For now, the panel's best advice is to seek help, exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
Grants aim to put research to work

St. Louis University will use two grants totaling nearly $5 million to find better ways of putting research results to work fighting cancer and chronic disease.

"We are spending $25 to $30 billion annually on health-related research," said Ross Brownson, a professor of epidemiology at the university's School of Public Health. "We need better ways to put our rich list of discoveries into practice."

A five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute will study whether personalized stories are better than the traditional policy briefs and statistical summaries at reaching the hearts and minds of lawmakers.

"I don't think anyone has systematically tested the power of stories to communicate cancer prevention messages to policy makers," Brownson said. "We're looking at how to make information more memorable so that lawmakers are more likely to take action."

A $1.3 million, three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will look at what helps or hinders state health departments in taking what researchers learn about fighting chronic disease and putting it into practice in the community.

Caffeine study recommended

An advisory board in California recently called for a study to determine whether soda and energy drinks containing caffeine pose a risk to pregnant women.

The review could lead to warning labels on the drinks under Proposition 65, a 1986 ballot measure that requires the state to identify chemicals that could cause cancer or birth defects.

The panel also requested an immediate review of bisphenol-A, which could lead to warning labels on plastic baby bottles, water bottles and reusable food containers. The chemical bisphenol-A has been shown to affect hormone levels.

In calling for the caffeine study, panel members said previous studies have linked it to miscarriages, premature births and low birth weight. The requirement would not apply to coffee and tea because caffeine occurs naturally in those products; Prop 65 applies only to food additives.

It is uncertain whether the state will follow either recommendation.


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