Newswise — When Andrew Roblyer was graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, he wasn’t sure what was next for him. Typing “day jobs that use acting skills” into the search bar on his Internet browser, he didn’t realize that he would soon find a career as a standardized patient. Standardized patients, or SPs as they’re called, take on the role of a patient in various scenarios to give nursing, medical, pharmacy and other health professions students experience with a real person before they’re faced with someone who is actually ill or in pain. Roblyer has worked as an SP for the Texas A&M University Health Science Center’s Clinical Learning Resource Center (CLRC) for the last three years. He’s based on the Bryan campus, but he travels around the state to train SPs at the other campuses as well. “Everyone at the CLRC is incredible, and they all work extremely hard at making sure SPs have the support that they need, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” Roblyer said. “Slowly, they started bringing me in to help out training.” He’s been teaching acting, debate and related topics since he was 16 years old, so the evolution felt natural to him. SPs are given a scenario to act out and a part to play. One day they might be “parents” who have to be told their daughter isn’t going to make it, the next, they might be having a medical emergency themselves. The CLRC makes these as realistic as possible, painting on “scrapes” and “bruises” with makeup and applying patches that can transmit pre-programmed noises to special stethoscopes the students use. Roblyer, who also runs a theatre company in town, wants potential future SPs to know that playing a role as a standardized patient is not the same as acting. “It is incredibly fulfilling work, but it is also not easy. We have to be able to standardize our performance for every student and with SPs at other campuses who are playing that case,” he said. “It takes a lot of time, attention to detail and practice.” The biggest thing Roblyer is trying to impart to new SPs is that their primary role is to give good feedback to the students, especially regarding their communication skills and ability to build rapport with a patient. “Most of us don’t have a health care background—although I am learning a lot of medical terms doing this job!” he said. “Still, everyone can tell if they feel heard and respected by their provider.” Acting as an SP has taught Roblyer that he has the right to expect the same level of treatment when he walks into a physician’s office for an appointment of his own. “There is no excuse for rudeness or a lack of attention to a patient, and I’ve become more comfortable expecting respect and compassion from a health care provider,” he said. One of the most important times to feel that respect might be during one of the more invasive exams or procedures physicians and nurses must perform on their patients. To teach students how to perform a male wellness exam, Roblyer works as a male urogenital teaching associate (MUTA). “I think especially for the male exam, there’s a lot of stigma and uncertainty around it, so giving future providers the opportunity to practice and learn in a safe environment is key,” he said. He and his fellow MUTAs have been training to teach not only the technical aspects of the exam, but also how to make the patient feel at ease. “Many of the students start out very nervous, but by the end, they feel so relieved,” Roblyer said. “I care very deeply about the students’ experience because I know they want so badly to do this well, so that moment when they say, ‘Yes, I understand this now,’ is so rewarding for me.” “I want to keep doing this for many years to come because what we do literally changes people’s lives because it affects the care that the people will receive once these students graduate and begin practicing,” Roblyer added. “It has a very real world impact, and that is awesome.” The Texas A&M University Health Science Center has SP programs across five campuses (Bryan, Round Rock, Dallas, Houston and Temple) that are always taking applications. To find out more and apply to become an SP, visit the CLRC website at
Newswise — Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, with more than 230,000 diagnoses each year. Around 12.4 percent of American women will develop the disease at some point. Given these statistics, understanding and treating the disease is of great public health importance. “Breast cancer is a serious disease that tends to strike women in the prime of their lives,” said Robin Fuchs-Young, PhD, a professor and breast cancer researcher at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “Although there are many challenges, we’re making great strides in understanding breast cancer.” Fuchs-Young’s laboratory is trying to understand why some women get breast cancer and others don’t, and why some women survive and others don’t. “If we can understand what the contributors are, we may be able to identify ways to better treat, and even prevent, this disease,” she said. “There are many of us asking these questions, all over the country and all over the world, and the answers are complex, with multiple factors involved.” Therefore, Fuchs-Young’s lab studies multiple contributors to breast cancer, especially those that may change the nature of the disease. Some of her earlier work has shown that risk of breast cancer is affected by the levels of a small peptide hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1. She is studying the possibility that higher levels of this growth factor early in life may be important in the development of early onset breast cancer, which Fuchs-Young says can be very different from breast cancer that occurs later in a woman’s life. “In some ways, breast cancer can be broken down into cancer that develops early in life—what we call early onset breast cancer—and late, post-menopausal breast cancer,” she said. The former tends to be more aggressive and harder to treat, while the latter tends to be more treatable with the drugs available now. Breast cancer that occurs later in life usually has receptors for estrogen and progesterone and tends to be more treatable, at least in the short term. The tumors arising in post-menopausal women usually respond well to available medications that either lower the amount of estrogen in the body or block the hormones that can cause cancer cells to grow. On the other hand, early onset cancers tend to act differently: they are more aggressive, often grow faster and do not respond to drugs that block steroid hormones. Early and late onset breast cancer may have different contributing risk factors as well. “There’s no single thing that causes cancer,” Fuchs-Young said. “It’s always this combination of genetic variations, mutations—which are not the same thing—and environmental exposures, and other things we call ‘modifiers,’ like diet.” “One of the challenges is understanding how the various contributors—like diet, genetics, environmental exposures and others—interact.” Adding to the complexity is that the effect of external influences on breast cancer susceptibility may depend on when the exposures occur. This is a concept called “windows of susceptibility.” “Our working hypothesis is that there is a connection between early onset breast cancer and early exposures to certain risk factors, one of which may be diet,” Fuchs-Young said. This is what her laboratory is investigating, using various types of models to try to understand causes and possibly identify ways to reduce the risk, or even completely prevent breast cancer. “Determining how breast cancer develops and how to treat it is a fascinating scientific question and an important challenge,” Fuchs-Young added. “We think we’re making progress.”
Newswise — “I have a fast metabolism; I can eat and eat and stay skinny.” Most of us have heard someone say this, and a majority of us have responded with annoyance and envy. But what is metabolism, and can we make ours run a bit faster? Taylor Newhouse, a registered dietitian with the Texas A&M School of Public Health, helps break down what you should know about your metabolism. What is metabolism? Your metabolism isn’t just what keeps your bragging friend lean, it’s the constant process that your body is using to keep everything functioning. Your metabolism is always running, even when you’re sleeping. “Your metabolism is kind of the engine that keeps your body going,” Newhouse said. “It’s the drive that allows your body to utilize the food and nutrients you put into it.” Some people do have faster metabolism than others, and that is the work of genetics and someone’s lifestyle. Although there’s nothing you can do about your genetics, there are ways to impact the lifestyle side and give your metabolism a boost to keep it running in high gear. How can you improve your metabolism? Because the metabolism’s base rate is set by genetics, there’s no quick way to rev it up; it cannot be changed without making some long-term lifestyle changes. “We can manipulate our metabolism to a degree,” Newhouse said. “It’s like a campfire: just like we need to give a fire tinder and pieces of wood in order to keep it from slowing down and burning out, we need to fuel our metabolism as well.” If you’re looking to boost your metabolism, then there are a few changes you can make throughout the day. Working out, hydrating and eating right can help with your overall health, but there are also specific habits you can foster in order to give it a boost. “Eating your leafy vegetables and working out can definitely help your metabolism,” Newhouse said. “Muscle burns more energy than fat, so lifting weights or anything else that builds muscle—along with eating correctly—can play a large role in how our body processes nutrients.” Apart from getting in more muscle-building workouts and eating better, another important habit to kick your metabolism into gear is not ignoring the most important meal of the day: breakfast. “People tend to overlook how important breakfast is,” Newhouse said. “We go all night without food, and our body can approach a fasting state, an episode where our body will withhold calories, if we wait too long to eat after waking up.” What can slow your metabolism? If it’s possible to speed up your metabolism, then it’s equally possible—and far easier—to slow it down. There are many habits that are easy to fall into that can make your metabolism run at a slower pace. One of these happens in the late hours of night, and involves what you’re not doing: getting enough shut-eye. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest epidemics in American society, with more than one-third of adults getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep is not only crucial for your metabolism, but skimping on sleep can also lead to long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. “Sleep is one of the biggest factors that people seem to forget about,” Newhouse said. “Even if someone eats well and exercises, if they don’t get adequate sleep, then their metabolism won’t run as efficiently.” Although snacks often have a bad reputation for being unhealthy, they are very important to keep you fueled and nourish your body throughout the day. Snacks should have some protein, fiber and carbohydrates and should not have too much salt or sodium. “Eating snacks won’t slow down your metabolism if you’re eating the right foods,” Newhouse said. “Healthy snacks—such as nuts, fruit or vegetables—have the nutrients to slow the rate of digestion, keep you feeling fuller longer and keep your body working to process the nutrients.” Stress can also indirectly lead to problems with your metabolism. People with high amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone, tend to be overweight, and being overweight can slow your metabolism. Lowering your cortisol levels can start a chain-reaction that can help your metabolism run more efficiently. What does your metabolism do over time? Believe it or not, metabolism—just like the rest of our body—goes through the aging process. As your metabolism slows, your continuous diet and exercise choices become more important. While the cause for this is unclear, women entering menopause will experience a slower metabolism and can find it more difficult to stay at a healthy weight, which makes diet and exercise vital to healthy aging. “Nothing changes overnight,” Newhouse said. “It’s a matter of making the small choices that can add up to try and negate the effects that are naturally slowing down your metabolism.” If you’re worried about how your metabolism is affecting your lifestyle, contact your health care provider or sit down with a registered dietician to set up a plan for a healthier daily life. ###
Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The University of Alabama at Birmingham has received a BRAIN Initiative grant of $7.3 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to study new technology that could improve outcomes from deep brain stimulation, an increasingly important treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. The White House BRAIN Initiative — Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — is a collaborative, public-private research initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2013. UAB is an international leader in neuromodulation, which involves using electrical, chemical or magnetic stimulation to modulate the function of the human nervous system. Deep brain stimulation is a neuromodulation therapy that uses electrical current to improve slowness, muscle stiffness, tremor and other disabling symptoms of movement disorders. The BRAIN Initiative award will enable UAB investigators to assess next-generation DBS technology made by Boston Scientific. Its new system can direct current in specific directions in the brain, which will allow a more tailored approach to DBS adjustments in individuals. This directional DBS approach has significant potential to enhance improvement and to minimize potential side effects from stimulation. “One of the difficulties in current DBS technology is that the electrical stimulus goes out in all directions, like a radio wave from a broadcast tower,” said Harrison Walker, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology and the primary investigator of the study. “Based on previous studies in our laboratory, we believe that we can use this new electrode design to tailor the shape of the DBS electrical field in individuals and get better results with fewer side effects.” To guide activation and adjustment of this complex new technology, the investigators will use recently identified biomarkers that measure brain rhythms triggered by DBS during surgery. One major goal of the study is to test whether these brain rhythms can serve as a roadmap in individuals to arrive at optimal stimulator settings with the directional DBS device as rapidly as possible. After DBS surgery, patients will participate in a crossover study to compare outcomes with and without directional stimulation. This study design takes advantage of the ability to instantly change stimulator settings in an individual. At the end of the crossover study, investigators will carefully measure motor, cognitive and behavioral outcomes. Importantly, participants will be able to express which treatment strategy they preferred, based on changes in symptoms and quality-of-life measures that are most important to them. UAB has performed more than 1,000 DBS and other stereotactic functional neurosurgery procedures for movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease. To refine targeting during the DBS procedure, neurologists and neurosurgeons perform brain mapping and measure the response to stimulation during surgery. The goal is to maximize potential benefits and minimize potential side effects during device activation a few weeks later in the neurology clinic. Walker’s previous research has identified biomarkers with significant potential to guide targeting and activation of the DBS device in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Biomarkers are measurable signs that can be used to diagnose or treat disease. In this case, the UAB team is studying whether specific patterns of cortical activation triggered by the DBS pulse can predict the best combination of DBS contacts used for clinical therapy. These cortical activation patterns are measured with electrodes on the scalp (electroencephalography) and on the surface of the brain (electrocorticography). This study will investigate the potential value of these biomarkers for refining positioning of the DBS electrode during surgery and for improving the time-consuming, trial-and-error process of stimulator adjustments in clinic. “There has always been a trade-off in deep brain stimulation, balancing the positive effects against the risk of unwanted side effects,” said co-investigator Barton Guthrie, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at UAB. “It’s a challenging undertaking to determine the best placement of the lead, and to establish the appropriate contacts for activation and other stimulation parameters. Our hope is that, with the greater flexibility afforded by the new technology, coupled with the discoveries Dr. Walker has made in tracking biomarkers for effectiveness, we’ll be able to produce even better results for patients.” “Advances in DBS technology such as emerging directional lead designs, are outpacing our clinical and scientific knowledge of how DBS actually works,” Walker said. “In addition to rigorously evaluating directional stimulation, this trial should allow us to identify physiological measures that could eventually be used to adjust DBS settings in real time based on the needs of the patient in daily life. Additionally, this work could serve as a foundation to guide neuromodulation strategies for other movement disorders and for emerging indications such as epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depression and other disorders.” “There is no better work being done in neuromodulation that at UAB, and this NIH BRAIN Initiative grant confirms the respect UAB enjoys in this field,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D., a practicing neurologist and expert in Parkinson’s disease. “This important research is made possible due to the strong collaboration between the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, coupled with the multidisciplinary contributions from engineering, physical therapy, radiology, otolaryngology and biostatistics. This research will continue to showcase UAB’s important contributions in movement disorders, and could provide significant improvement in the quality of life for thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease.” The scientific steering group for the BRAIN Initiative grant includes Walker and Guthrie, along with Arie Nakhmani, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Gary Cutter, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics; Christopher Hurt, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy; Daniel Phillips, Ed.D., instructor of otolaryngology; Roy Martin, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology; and Mark Bolding, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology. About UABKnown for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, as well as Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $5 billion on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development. UAB is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Translational Science Award. Learn more at UAB: Knowledge that will change your world. EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on subsequent references.
Newswise — Whether you see the gossamer wings of a butterfly or the delicate opened petals of a flower, there is beauty in the eye of the beholder — a mouse retina described and visually captured by scientists at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR) at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health. The confocal microscope image, which depicts a mouse retina sparkling with fluorescent molecules, has been awarded first prize in the National Institutes of Health’s 2016 Combined Federal Campaign “Beauty of Science,” an arts competition to inspire awareness and support of federal scientific efforts. The image was featured in a study published last year in the journal Cell Death and Disease by UC San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute researchers investigating potential restorative therapies for glaucoma, a progressive disease involving damage to the eye’s optic nerve and irreversible vision loss. An estimated 70 million people worldwide, including 3 million Americans, suffer from glaucoma, though many are unaware and undiagnosed. It is the leading cause of blindness in persons over age 60. Glaucoma is characterized by the gradual death of neurons called retinal ganglion cells, which transmit light information from the retina to the brain via the optic nerve. “Past research has suggested that targeting these cells with gene therapy designed to prevent their death might slow progression of the disease,” said Robert N. Weinreb, MD, director of both the Hamilton Glaucoma Center and Shiley Eye Institute, and a co-author of the 2015 Cell Death and Disease paper. Weinreb, with senior author Wonkyu Ju, PhD, associate professor, and colleagues investigated whether a non-disease-causing virus could be used to effectively deliver therapeutic genes to retinal ganglion cells. In the award-winning image, created by Ju, associate project scientist Keunyoung Kim, PhD, and NCMIR director Mark Ellisman, PhD, a virus carrying a gene tagged with green fluorescent protein (GFP) was introduced into the eyes of 7-month-old mice. Two months later, the retinas were examined using large-scale mosaic confocal microscopy, a technique pioneered at NCMIR with funding support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “It’s similar to Google Earth in that we computationally stitch together many, many small high-resolution images,” said Ellisman, who also directs the Center for Research in Biological Systems, which promotes cross-disciplinary research involving NCMIR, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and UC San Diego Health Sciences. In the image, GFP expression (yellow) is observed broadly distributed in all parts of retinal ganglion cells, suggesting the viral delivery system could deliver therapeutic genes. The blue dots indicate Brn3a-positive retinal ganglion cells. Brn3a is a marker for retinal ganglion cells. This was stained for examining transduction efficiency of AAV2-GFP in retinal ganglion cells. ###    
Newswise — CHICAGO – A unique wearable artificial vision device may help people who are legally blind “read” and recognize faces. It may also help these individuals accomplish everyday tasks with significantly greater ease than using traditional assistive reading devices, suggests a study presented today at AAO 2016, the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Approximately 246 million people worldwide have low vision. This sight loss impairs a person’s ability to do simple daily tasks. Optical and electronic devices such as hand-held magnifiers, tele-microscopic glasses and computer and video magnifiers can help. But, typically these devices are bulky, cumbersome or not readily portable. With recent advancements in wearable electronic devices and optical character recognition technology that converts images to computer-readable text, University of California, Davis researchers hypothesized that these newer technologies could help improve patients’ ability to function in daily life. To test their theory, researchers asked a group of visually impaired patients to use a wearable artificial vision device to see its impact. They found that the device vastly improved patients’ daily productivity. The researchers used the Orcam My Eye for their study. The device is unique because it clips to glasses, making it hands-free. It features a miniature camera that sees and recognizes what the user is viewing, whether text or a face, and then reads what it is seeing to the user via a small bone-conduction earpiece. The user activates the device by simply pointing a finger to the object or text, tapping it or pressing a trigger button. Researchers tested the device on 12 legally blind people, who all had a visual acuity of less than 20/200. Study participants performed a 10-item test simulating activities of daily life, including recognizing products and reading a variety of items such as emails, letters, newspapers, book and signs. They earned one point for the successful completion of each item, and a zero for each not completed. The total possible score was 10. The researchers studied the participants at three stages. First, they observed the participants doing the tasks without the device, then while wearing it after receiving a 90- to 120-minute training session and finally after wearing the device for one week. The researchers’ findings were as follows:•Without wearing the device, the participants’ average score was 2.5 out of 10.•When they first tried the device, their average score improved to 9.5 out of 10.•After a week of wearing the device, the average score of participants improved to 9.8 out of 10. •Seven of the patients completed the test using other low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses, resulting in an average score of 6. When they switched to the portable device, their average score improved to 9.7. “While there have been many advances in eye care, the options for assistance in completing daily tasks are limited and cumbersome,” said Elad Moisseiev, M.D., a vitreoretinal surgeon who was the study lead at U.C. Davis, but is now with the Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel. “This represents a new step in the evolution of assistance devices for people with low vision, giving them hope for improving their functionality, independence and quality of life.” The pilot study was the first to evaluate the device in people with low vision, establishing its efficacy and ease of use and demonstrating the achievement of statistically significant differences in test scores, said Dr. Moisseiev. He noted that additional studies should include more people, ideally stratifying them by level of visual impairment.A Portable Artificial Vision Device is a Useful Aid for Patients with Low Vision is being presented at AAO 2016, the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The event is being held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Oct. 14-18 at McCormick Place, Chicago. Known as the place "Where all of Ophthalmology Meets®," the Academy’s annual meeting is the world’s largest conference for eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, see AAO 2016 highlights. Dr. Moisseiev has no financial interest in or connection to the device company. About the American Academy of OphthalmologyThe American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit SEE ORIGINAL STUDY
Newswise — After analyzing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective. In a report on the research, published Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers caution that their work only documents an association between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis, and does not prove cause and effect. But they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements, and they urge a consultation with a knowledgeable physician before using calcium supplements. An estimated 43 percent of American adult men and women take a supplement that includes calcium, according the National Institutes of Health. "When it comes to using vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly calcium supplements being taken for bone health, many Americans think that more is always better," says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system." The researchers were motivated to look at the effects of calcium on the heart and vascular system because studies already showed that "ingested calcium supplements -- particularly in older people -- don't make it to the skeleton or get completely excreted in the urine, so they must be accumulating in the body's soft tissues," says nutritionist John Anderson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health and a co-author of the report. Scientists also knew that as a person ages, calcium-based plaque builds up in the body's main blood vessel, the aorta and other arteries, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack. The investigators looked at detailed information from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a long-running research project funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which included more than 6,000 people seen at six research universities, including Johns Hopkins. Their study focused on 2,742 of these participants who completed dietary questionnaires and two CT scans spanning 10 years apart. The participants chosen for this study ranged in age from 45 to 84, and 51 percent were female. Forty-one percent were white, 26 percent were African-American, 22 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Chinese. At the study's onset in 2000, all participants answered a 120-part questionnaire about their dietary habits to determine how much calcium they took in by eating dairy products; leafy greens; calcium-enriched foods, like cereals; and other calcium-rich foods. Separately, the researchers inventoried what drugs and supplements each participant took on a daily basis. The investigators used cardiac CT scans to measure participants' coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of calcification in the heart's arteries and a marker of heart disease risk when the score is above zero. Initially, 1,175 participants showed plaque in their heart arteries. The coronary artery calcium tests were repeated 10 years later to assess newly developing or worsening coronary heart disease. For the analysis, the researchers first split the participants into five groups based on their total calcium intake, including both calcium supplements and dietary calcium. After adjusting the data for age, sex, race, exercise, smoking, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, blood pressure, blood sugar and family medical history, the researchers separated out 20 percent of participants with the highest total calcium intake, which was greater than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day. That group was found to be on average 27 percent less likely than the 20 percent of participants with the lowest calcium intake -- less than 400 milligrams of daily calcium -- to develop heart disease, as indicated by their coronary artery calcium test. Next, the investigators focused on the differences among those taking in only dietary calcium and those using calcium supplements. Forty-six percent of their study population used calcium supplements. The researchers again accounted for the same demographic and lifestyle factors that could influence heart disease risk, as in the previous analysis, and found that supplement users showed a 22 percent increased likelihood of having their coronary artery calcium scores rise higher than zero over the decade, indicating development of heart disease. "There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier," says Anderson. "It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body is unable to process." Among participants with highest dietary intake of calcium -- over 1,022 milligrams per day -- there was no increase in relative risk of developing heart disease over the 10-year study period. "Based on this evidence, we can tell our patients that there doesn't seem to be any harm in eating a heart-healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, and it may even be beneficial for the heart," says Michos. "But patients should really discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease kills over 370,000 people each year in the U.S. More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements -- many without the oversight of a physician -- because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis. Other authors on the study included Bridget Kruszka and Joseph Delaney of the University of Washington, Ka He of Indiana University, Gregory Burke of Wake Forest University, Alvaro Alonso of Emory University, Diane Bild of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and Matthew Budoff of UCLA Medical Center. The study was funded by contracts (N01-HC-95159, N01-HC-95160, N01-HC-95161, N01-HC-95162, N01-HC-95163, N01-HC-95164, N01-HC-95165, N01-HC-95167, N01-HC-95168 and N01-HC-95169); a grant (R21HL120394-01) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; grants (UL1-TR-000040 and UL1-TR-001079) from the National Center for Research Resources; a grant (R01NS072243) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and the Blumenthal Scholars Award in Preventive Cardiology.
Newswise — CHICAGO – Chicago will become the global epicenter of the latest discoveries in ophthalmology this week as thousands of eye physicians and surgeons attend AAO 2016, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 120th annual meeting. The world's largest showcase for vision research and innovation will be held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology on Oct. 14-18 at McCormick Place. More than 25,000 are expected to attend the Academy’s annual meeting, making it one of the largest medical meetings in the United States. It features more than 350 instruction courses, 56 surgical skills labs, 51 symposia and 585 exhibitors, collectively addressing all aspects of the ophthalmic profession. Highlights include:Progress in the precision of cataract and LASIK surgeryProfessor and Allen, Mosbacher and Law Chair of the Baylor College of Medicine Ophthalmology Department Douglas E. Koch, M.D., will discuss how new technology has great potential to improve the precision of cataract and LASIK surgery during theJackson Memorial Lecture, the premiere lectureship in ophthalmology. Dr. Koch will describe innovations such as intraocular lenses whose optical power can be modified postoperatively. Surgical alternatives to reading glassesSurgical treatments for presbyopia, the blurred near vision people often get starting around age 40, will be the focus of two named lectures. Julian D. Stevens, D.O., Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, will discuss corneal inlays during the Whitney G. Sampson Lecture. Dean of the College of Medicine at University of Illinois Dimitri T. Azar, M.D., will deliver the Castroviejo Lecture where he will review recent advancements in the field such as the development of the Google/Verily smart accommodating intraocular lenses. Zika and trachomaThe visual impacts of infectious diseases will be covered at different events at AAO 2016. Representatives from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and ophthalmologists from Brazil and the United States will examine how Zika affects babies born to infected mothers. In a separate session, Thomas M. Lietman, M.D. will deliver the Jones/Smolin Lecture, describing the efforts underway in sub-Saharan Africa to eradicate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Saving eyes on the battlefield and at homeCol. Robert A. Mazzoli, M.D., former consultant to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, will highlight the role military ophthalmologists have played in improving care for injured military personnel and how the lessons of battlefield care that can be adapted to peacetime practice. In a separate session, representatives from the Association of Veterans Affairs Ophthalmologists and the Society of Military Ophthalmologists will highlight innovative approaches to expanding access to veterans' eye care services through residency programs. The IRIS® Registry: Measuring value and improving qualitySeveral talks will focus on the Academy’s IRIS® Registry (Intelligent Research in Sight), the world’s largest real-time database of ophthalmic patient outcomes. As the focus of healthcare shifts from volume to value, the IRIS Registry is helping ophthalmologists track, report and improve quality performance, evaluate patient outcomes and perform simple analytics. Medicare and the FDASeveral sessions will focus on new policies that promise to impact eye care and access to quality physician-led treatments. Medicare is set to implement a sweeping new physician payment system focused on the value of care instead of volume of service. Academy’s physician leaders and health policy experts will discuss what this means to ophthalmology and its patients. In another session, U.S. Food and Drug Administration representatives will answer attendees' questions about preserving access to sight-saving medications and the ophthalmic device approval process. X-ray technology uncovers true colors in 19th Century artFrancesca Casadio, PhD., will deliver the Michael F. Marmor, M.D. Lecture in Ophthalmology and the Arts. The A.W. Mellon Senior Conservation Scientist with The Art Institute of Chicago will discuss how she used technology such as Macro X-ray Fluorescence Spectometry to uncover the original color of Van Gogh’s bedroom. “The Academy’s annual meeting continues to be a beacon for our profession,” said Jonathan B. Rubenstein, M.D., secretary of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting. “No other meeting in the world provides the wide breadth of content and numerous opportunities to meet and interact with local and international colleagues. I look forward to seeing the many developments that will be presented at AAO 2016 that promise to advance our profession’s efforts to fight eye disease and promote global eye health.” The Academy provides free access to credentialed members of the media. Learn more at For more information about the meeting, visit A searchable program is available at Selected hours of educational content will be streamed live Oct. 14-18. Learn more and sign up at About the American Academy of OphthalmologyThe American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest membership association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 ophthalmologists, we are passionate about protecting sight and fighting preventable blindness. For more than 120 years, we have been educators, innovators and advocates for the public and our profession to ensure the highest-quality medical and surgical eye care. Our EyeSmart® program is a preeminent source of eye health information for the public and empowers people to preserve their vision. For more information, visit
Newswise — ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL  – When testing for food allergies, allergists often ask about family history. If your parents have food allergies, the chances are higher that you too will have them. Problem is, not everyone who reports a food allergy actually has one. A study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reports only 28 percent of parents of kids with food allergies tested positive to the foods to which they reported allergies. A sensitivity to a food can be indicated in a skin prick test or a blood test, but does not always show a true allergy unless there has been a previous reaction to the food. “Parents of kids with food allergies had a higher rate of positive blood and skin tests to foods than the general population,” said allergist Melanie Makhija, MD, MSc, ACAAI member and co-lead author. “But of the 2,477 parents, only 28 percent of those who self-reported a food allergy actually tested positive. This tells us that either people haven’t been tested and are assuming an allergy from a previous reaction to a food, or they haven’t been tested properly and may not truly have an allergy. Allergy testing, including blood and skin prick testing, is not always reliable; there are a lot of false positives.” Parents of children with food allergies were recruited from local hospital clinics and community settings. To be eligible, families had to have a child with a food allergy. In response to the questionnaire, 13.7 percent of parents reported having a food allergy. Of that group, only 28 percent tested positive to the food to which they reported being allergic. “Previous studies have focused on the general adult population,” said allergist Rachel Robison, MD, study co-lead author. “While we found positive test results were more common in parents of kids with food allergies, the actual levels in the blood for the foods were quite low. Low positives in allergy testing are more likely to be false positives This points to the importance of proper testing for any kind of allergy, but particularly food allergies. Interestingly, we also found that of the parents who reported no food allergy, 14 percent had positive tests to peanut and sesame, for example.” According to ACAAI, skin tests may reveal sensitization, but being sensitized to an allergen doesn't mean you are allergic. Oral food challenges remain the gold standard for allergy testing and are considered very accurate for diagnosing allergies. An allergy blood test alone is not as accurate. Food allergy tests aren’t able to predict future risk for someone who has never eaten the food before. Allergists are specially trained to administer allergy testing and diagnose the results. They can then tailor a plan specific to your allergies. To find an allergist near you, use the ACAAI allergist locator. More news and research from ACAAI will be released during the 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting, November 10-14 at The Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. To register for the meeting, go to ACAAI Annual Meeting. Media may also call 847-725-2277, or e-mail About ACAAIThe ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
Newswise — NEW YORK, NY -- Columbia College of Dental Medicine researchers have identified stem cells that can make new cartilage and repair damaged joints. The cells reside within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which articulates the jaw bone to the skull. When the stem cells were manipulated in animals with TMJ degeneration, the cells repaired cartilage in the joint. A single cell transplanted in a mouse spontaneously generated cartilage and bone and even began to form a bone marrow niche. The findings were published on October 10 in Nature Communications. “This is very exciting for the field because patients who have problems with their jaws and TMJs are very limited in terms of clinical treatments available,” said Mildred C. Embree, DMD, PhD, assistant professor of dental medicine at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the lead author of the study. Dr. Embree’s team, the TMJ Biology and Regenerative Medicine Lab, conducted the research with colleagues including Jeremy Mao, DDS, PhD, the Edwin S. Robinson Professor of Dentistry (in Orthopedic Surgery) at CUMC. Up to 10 million people in the United States, primarily women, have TMJ disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. Options for treatment currently include either surgery or palliative care, which addresses symptoms but can’t regenerate the damaged tissue. Dr. Embree’s findings suggest that stem cells already present in the joint could be manipulated to repair it. Cartilage helps to cushion the joints and allows them to move smoothly. The type of cartilage within the TMJ is fibrocartilage, which is also found in the knee meniscus and in the discs between the vertebrae. Because fibrocartilage cannot regrow or heal, injury or disease that damages this tissue can lead to permanent disability. Medical researchers have been working to use stem cells, immature cells that can develop into various types of tissue, to regenerate cartilage. Given the challenges of transplanting donor stem cells, such as the possibility of rejection by the recipient, researchers are especially interested in finding ways to use stem cells already living in the body. “The implications of these findings are broad,” said Dr. Mao, “including for clinical therapies. They suggest that molecular signals that govern stem cells may have therapeutic applications for cartilage and bone regeneration. Cartilage and certain bone defects are notoriously difficult to heal.” Dr. Mao is co-director of the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration at Columbia. His own research with stem cells has regenerated teeth and the meniscus, the pad of cartilage within the knee joint, and the TMJ in 2003. In a series of experiments described in the new report, Dr. Embree, Dr. Mao, and their colleagues isolated fibrocartilage stem cells (FCSCs) from the joint and showed that the cells can form cartilage and bone, both in the laboratory and when implanted into animals. “I didn’t have to add any reagents to the cells,” Dr. Embree said. “They were programmed to do this.” And while some approaches to regenerating injured tissue require growth factors or biomaterials for the cells to grow on, she noted, the FCSCs grew and matured spontaneously. Dr. Embree and her team also identified a molecular signal, Wnt, that depletes FCSCs and causes cartilage degeneration. Injecting a Wnt-blocking molecule called sclerostin into degenerated TMJs in animals stimulated cartilage growth and healing of the joint. She and her colleagues are now searching for other small molecules that could be used to inhibit Wnt and promote FCSC growth. The idea, according to Dr. Embree, will be to find a drug with minimal side effects that could be injected right into the joint. Children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis can have stunted jaw growth that can’t be treated with existing drugs, Dr. Embree noted. Since the TMJ is a growth center for the jaw, the new research may offer strategies for treating these children, and lead to a better understanding of how the jaw grows and develops. While orthodontists currently rely on clunky technologies like headgear to modify jaw growth, she added, the findings could point towards ways to modulate growth on the cellular level. Ultimately, Dr. Embree and her team say, the findings could lead to strategies for repairing fibrocartilage in other joints, including the knees and vertebral discs. “Those types of cartilage have different cellular constituents, so we would have to really investigate the molecular underpinnings regarding how these cells are regulated,” the researcher said. The study is titled, “Exploiting endogenous fibrocartilage stem cells to regenerate cartilage and repair joint injury.” Authors included Mildred C. Embree (Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY), Mo Chen (CUMC), Serhiy Pylawka (CUMC), Danielle Kong (CUMC), George M. Iwaoka (CUMC), Ivo Kalajzic (University of Connecticut, Farmington CT), Hai Yao (Clemson University, Charleston, SC), Chancheng Shi (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chongqing, China), Dongming Sun (Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ), Tzong-Jen Sheu (University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY), David A. Koslovsky (Metropolitan Oral Associates, New York, NY), Alia Koch (CUMC), and Jeremy J. Mao (CUMC). This investigation was supported by grants from the National Institute of Health (K99DE022060-01A, 5R00DE0220660, R01DE021134, S10RR027050, S10OD020056, and NO1-DE-22635. The authors declare no competing financial interests. ###