UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Viagra might prevent heart attack, stroke

KINGSTON, Ontario, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Canadian scientists say they've found shaping one enzyme might lead to using the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra to help prevent heart attacks and strokes.


"As scientists, we're excited about this discovery because it's a fundamentally new approach to regulating what enzymes do in cells," said Queens University Professor Donald Maurice, who led the study. "The fact that it also offers a potentially novel use of a drug already widely in use for other applications is an unexpected bonus."

The enzyme, PDE5, is known to regulate the activity of platelets: small blood cells needed for normal blood clotting. Problems can arise when people have stents permanently implanted in their arteries to maintain blood flow. Their platelets sometimes bind to the stent and, if enough platelets accumulate to form a blockage, this may cause a heart attack or stroke.


Viagra has been shown to inhibit PDE5, said Lindsay Wilson, graduate student and first author of the study. "The idea is to use a PDE5 inhibitor such as Viagra to selectively inhibit platelet function," Wilson added.

The study appears in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Swiss 3-D system aids weather forecasting

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Swiss scientists say they have developed a new technology that improves weather forecast accuracy by providing continuous data on atmospheric conditions.

The 3-D measurement system, developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, will be used by MetroSwiss -- Switzerland's national weather service.

The system, said to be unique in the world, uses light detection and ranging, or lidar, to gather data on the vertical distribution of temperatures and humidity in the atmosphere. The system collects those data automatically up to an altitude of approximately six miles.

The researchers said lidar is similar to radar, but instead of utilizing radio waves lidar sends a beam of laser light vertically into the sky. The "echo" or reflection of that light from different layers in the atmosphere provides an instantaneous vertical profile of temperature and humidity.


Since the laser can be fired 30 times per second, the scientists said it represents a vast improvement over weather balloons that take minutes to reach the upper atmosphere and can only be sent a few times a day.

The project was supported by funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Potential type 1 diabetes therapy studied

BOSTON, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they confirmed in human experiments a potential type 1 diabetes therapy that might reverse the disease.

Researchers led by Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital's immunobiology laboratory, confirmed the mechanism behind the potential new therapy. The scientists showed blocking a metabolic pathway regulating the immune system eliminated immune cells that react against a patient's own tissues.

Faustman and her team previously discovered a technique that reversed type 1 diabetes in a mouse model. They said the current study is the first demonstration of the strategy in humans and supports the viability of a phase I clinical trial that is under way.

"Our studies in mice showed that we could selectively kill the defective autoimmune cells that were destroying insulin-producing islets," said Faustman. "These results show that the same selective destruction can occur in human cells and connect what we saw in our animal studies with the protocol we are pursuing in our Phase I clinical trial."


The research is reported in the early online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New microwaveable ceramic material created

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. and Japanese scientists say they've created ceramic dishware that will keep food heated by a microwave oven hotter for longer periods of time.

Pennsylvania State University Professor Sridhar Komarneni said the new ceramic dishes allow quicker microwave meals that use less energy.

"Currently, food heated in a microwave loses heat to the cold dish because the dishes are transparent to microwaves," said Komarneni. "The plates are still cool when the cooking is completed."

Komarneni, working with Hiroaki Katsuki and Nobuaki Kamochi of the Saga Ceramic Research Laboratory in Saga, Japan, developed the ceramic from petalite and magnetite sintered together that heats in the microwave without causing equipment problems as do most metals.

When the petalite and magnetite are fired together, the magnetite converts to an iron oxide that heats when placed in a microwave, they said.

"Dishes heated by themselves or with food could keep the food hot for up to 15 minutes," said Komarneni." One might even cook a pizza on a plate and then deliver it hot."


The research was reported in a recent issue of the journal Chemistry of Materials.

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