Saturday, April 9, 2011

Freeway pollution damages mouse brains

Freeway traffic nanoparticles damages mouse brains
Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Freeway pollution dangerous for brain health

A daily commute in heavy traffic might be damaging to your brain suggests new research from University of Southern California. Scientists say traffic pollution could lead to the type of brain damage seen with Alzheimer's disease. 

Findings published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal showed mice exposed to 150 hours of freeway pollution over a period of ten weeks had damage to neurons in the brain that can lead to memory loss, premature aging, inflammation and developmental delays.

Senior author Caleb Finch, Chair of the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick in the Neurobiology of Aging says you can't see the harmful nanoparticles emitted from vehicles, but they're there "and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air."

The researchers used an aerosol suspended in water to deliver the same type of nanoparticle pollution inhaled by humans to the mice used in the study. The brain changes in the mice that lead to damage came from increased inflammatory cytokines, impaired growth of cell structures in the brain and decreased brain activity in the area of the hippocampus.

The scientists note the negative health effect of freeway pollution on blood vessels and lung health is well documented, but the effect on the brain has not been well studied.  The current findings shows pollution from vehicles found in freeway traffic damages the brain, according to the mouse study.

Environmental Health Perspectives

Citation: Morgan TE, Davis DA, Iwata N, Tanner JA, Snyder D, Ning Z, et al. 2011. Glutamatergic Neurons in Rodent Models Respond to Nanoscale Particulate Urban Air Pollutants In Vivo and In Vitro. Environ Health Perspect :-. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002973


Monday, April 4, 2011

Simple test can measure heart disease risk during sleep

Simple device that attaches to
the finger measures risk of heart disease

Simple test checks heart risks while sleeping

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden designed a simple and inexpensive way to find a person's risk for heart disease during sleep, using a device similar to a pulse oximeter that attaches to the finger.

Rather than just measuring oxygen saturation during sleep, the device also documents four other cardiac related changes related to pulse variations. 
Ludger Grote, associate professor at the Center for Sleep and Vigilance Disorders at the Sahlgrenska Academy and senior consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital said, "We believe that the patient's values reflect the risk at least as well as the individual's risk factors 'on paper'."
The scientists hope the device can also be put to use to find the effect of weight loss and exercise for reducing cardiovascular disease risks. 

The research team is designing a portable device and have started clinical studies to confirm their results. 

The results of the test that measures pulse rate, acceleration, variability, pulse wave oscillation and oxygen levels during sleep could provide a quick, simple and inexpensive way to provide heart screening to large numbers of people while they sleep.

Chestdoi: 10.1378/chest.09-3029


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Immune profile could predict breast cancer survival

Immune cells tell
researchers much about
breast cancer

Immune markers could guide breast cancer treatment

Researchers say understanding immunity in women with breast cancer could predict survival and improve treatment options. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco have found drugs that can alter tumor growth in mice, based on three types of immune cells.

UCSF Department of Pathology Professor Lisa Coussens, PhD, who led the research explains "If our work translates into the clinic, it may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of certain cancers."

The researchers plan to enroll women in clinical trials later this year at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and two collaborating institutions.

The findings, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, suggest the body should be immune to cancer. Normally, cancer cells should be destroyed by the body's own immune fighting T-cells that can also become dangerous and damage healthy tissue. When that happens, but body uses macrophages to keep T-cells in check. Fewer T cells would help the body destroy cancer tumors.

For the study, the researchers looked at the killer T cell, macrophages, and another immune cell known as a helper T cells in women with breast cancer. 

The abundance of the three types of immune cells found in 677 people with breast cancer  predicted which cancer tumors would metastasize or recur after treatment. Tumors in mice most amenable to chemotherapy had fewer T cells. 

In the lab, the scientists used a drug to reprogram the immune profile of cancer tumors in mice. The drug made cancer more susceptible to chemotherapy.

The scientists aren't certain whether the strategy will work in humans. The next step is to take the findings from the lab to humans. Researchers know the body should be immune to cancer. The new findings show understanding immune profiles in women with breast cancer might predict survival. Changing immune cells with drugs could help destroy cancer.

Source: AACR News


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Antidepressants linked to thicker arteries, suggesting heart disease risk

Antidepressant use is linked to thicker
arteries that could lead to heart disease.

New findings suggest antidepressant use might increase the chances of heart disease and stroke.

In a study of twins, scientists found taking SSRI's that inhibit the re-uptake of the hormone serotonin, as well as other types of antidepressants, seemed to lead to thickening in the walls of the carotid arteries, known as the intima. The findings suggest increased heart disease and stroke risk associated with the medications.

Scientists will present their findings April 5 at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans. In the study, 59 sets of twins, one using antidepressants and the other none,  were compared using carotid artery ultrasound. 

The researchers noted the arteries were "four years older" in the participants taking antidepressants. The findings also took into account other lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and lifestyle contributors for vascular disease.

Amit Shah, MD, lead author and a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine says, "In our study, users of antidepressants see an average 40 micron increase in IMT, so their carotid arteries are in effect four years older."

The researchers aren't certain why the carotid arteries were thicker in the group taking antidepressants and say the findings should be interpreted with caution. They do not recommend people stop taking their antidepressants. You can read more details of the findings at