UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

May 10, 2004 at 6:10 PM
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Protein may help in muscular dystrophies

BETHESDA, Md., May 10 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say a group of chemicals already being used as an anti-cancer drug can stimulate regeneration of adult skeletal muscle cells.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and colleagues and at other intuitions found the chemicals, called histone deacetylase, or HDAC inhibitors, increase the incidence of follistatin, a protein that can help repair cell damage in muscles. The findings may provide new avenues for developing effective means to promote regeneration in muscular dystrophies.

"Our findings establish for the first time that follistatin promotes the recruitment and fusion of immature muscle cells to pre-existing adult muscle fibers," said study leader Dr. Vittorio Sartorelli from the Muscle Gene Expression Group in the Laboratory of Muscle Biology.

"These results suggest that follistatin is a promising target for future drug development of muscle regeneration."

The study was published in May issue of Developmental Cell.

Perspiration may spread SARS

NEW YORK, May 10 (UPI) -- Researchers at the New York Blood Center say they've determined the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome virus can be spread through perspiration.

The researchers, led by Shibo Jiang, mapped the SARS coronavirus in the tissues of four patients killed by the respiratory disease in China last year.

Besides the lungs and gut, where SARS is known to cause infection, the researchers found the virus in a range of organs including the kidneys, which make urine and the sweat glands.

SARS already is known to be dispersed through feces and saliva droplets. The latest study suggests the disease can also be spread through a simple touch, says Jiang.

He says additional protective measures should be taken, such as requiring patients to wear gloves and gowns.

However Simon Mardel at the World Health Organization in Geneva says even if there is some virus in perspiration, existing infection control measures already appear adequate to curb its spread. Healthcare workers are currently advised to wear masks and engage in frequent hand washing.

The majority of people who have picked up SARS have had close and extended contact with patients, says Mardel.

Magnetic therapy helps spinal cord ills

LONDON, May 10 (UPI) -- British researchers say they've found magnetic therapy to the brain helps people suffering from partial damage to their spinal cord.

The study found patients whose spinal cord had not been completely severed and who received repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, known as rTMS, showed improvement in muscle and limb movements, and the ability to feel sensations.

The researchers at Imperial College London and other facilities in Britain, used an electromagnet placed on the scalp to generate brief magnetic pulses -- about the strength of an MRI scan -- to stimulate the cerebral cortex.

"We think it works by strengthening the information leaving the brain through the undamaged neurons in the spinal cord," said study author Dr. Nick Davey.

"It may work like physiotherapy but instead of repeating a physical task, the machine activates the surviving nerves to strengthen their connections."

However, Davey noted only four patients were used in the study, so further studies on larger groups are necessary.

The study was published in the journal Spinal Cord.

Researchers starve fat cells of blood flow

HOUSTON, May 10 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers have designed a strategy to treat obesity through a kind of molecular liposuction.

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center said the therapy destroys blood vessels supporting fat accumulation, which causes the fat to break down rapidly and disappear.

They said it took only weeks of treatment by an experimental drug to restore the normal weight of mice that had doubled their size by eating a high-fat, so-called cafeteria diet.

Although the work has only been conducted in animals, the researchers said it could lead one day to the development of targeted therapies to treat human obesity, which is a risk factor for numerous conditions including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

"If even a fraction of what we found in mice relates to human biology, then we are cautiously optimistic that there may be a new way to think about reversing obesity," said Renata Pasqualini, co-lead investigator.

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