Patients with asthma who haven’t responded well to treatment may be greatly helped by injections of a drug for eczema. Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show that patients with moderate to severe asthma reduced flare-ups by half or more after getting an injection of dupilumab,, a drug approved by the FDA for eczema in 2017. Patients taking the drug cut their emergency room visits about in half and those taking steroids for asthma were also able to reduce their dose.
Scientists have developed a prototype early warning system for the four most common types of cancer that makes a dark mole appear on the skin when it’s activated. Researchers call it a “biomedical tattoo” and say it would be inserted under the skin, monitoring genetic changes in the body. Mutations associated with lung, colon, breast or prostate cancer would make the implant turn a dark color, which would be visible through the skin. researchers say in the journal Science Translational Medicine that the test is at least 10 years away.
Surviving a heart attack may be as simple as exercise. A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked nearly 15,000 people for 40 years. It found that more than 10 percent of them eventually had a heart attack but those who had pursued a light exercise regimen were 32 percent less likely to die from it compared to people who had been sedentary. Those exercising at least moderately were nearly 50 percent less likely to die.
And finally, researchers say walking and chewing gum at the same time amounts to good exercise. A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science shows that chewing gum while you walk raises heart rate over walking alone, and makes people walk faster and farther. For men over 40, that adds up to a significant additional calorie burn while for women it didn’t make as much difference.
DNA mutations happen all the time in the body, but the immune system usually detects and deals with them. When the system fails, cancer results. Yet some animals, such as elephants, almost never get cancer, and scientists have learned that the elephant DNA repair system is 20 times more powerful than the human system.
Researchers continue to search for a brain booster to combat the cognitive effects of advancing age, and they may have found one in human umbilical cord blood. A study in the journal Nature shows that human cord blood injected into old mice significantly improved the function of their brains. Researchers were then able to isolate the responsible factor in the newborn blood, a protein called timp-2. Timp-2 injected into old mice produced the same effects. Researchers say the findings could lead to new treatments of age-related mental decline.
More women who’ve had cancer are having children, but those kids are more likely to be born prematurely, with a below average birth weight. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that breast cancer treatment produces nearly double the risk for preterm birth later, while cancers such as Hodgkins lymphoma increased the risk by 6%. Doctors don’t know if those children have greater health risks later on in life.
And finally, a study now proves that when people get their pictures taken, most of them say “take my left side. It’s my better side.” And when people view pictures, they perceive the left side of faces to be more expressive. That’s according to a study in the journal Brain and Cognition. Scientists explain that the left side of the face is controlled by the right side of the brain, which is more involved in emotion.
We’ve reported on how dogs can sniff out a variety of diseases in people with scientists trying to create a mechanical nose to do the same thing. Now a study presented to the American Chemical Society shows they’re making progress. Researchers have identified a signature odor in 90% of cases of prostate cancer and have developed a chemical test to detect it. Doctors are looking for an alternative to the PSA test to detect prostate cancer because of the high proportion of false positives.
People who are depressed have a surprisingly high risk for heart disease. A new study in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that depression is just as much of a cardiovascular risk as obesity and high cholesterol. The 10-year study finds that depression is to blame for about 15% of all heart disease deaths, a rate exceeded only by smoking and high blood pressure. About 350 million people around the world suffer from depression.
It might be easier to get into an argument when you’re tired because you’re misreading the emotions of other people. A study in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms shows that sleepy people have trouble interpreting some emotions in the faces of others compared to those who are well rested. Tired people can read fear and anger in others’ faces but more subtle emotions are misinterpreted far more often.
And finally, slightly more than half of parents give sports the green light for their kids but about one in every six completely rule them out. The reason? Concussions. The rest of parents, about a third of them, allow participation on a sport by sport basis, according to a Harris survey for the American Osteopathic Association. About two thirds of parents say basketball and baseball are ok for kids. But less than 20% approve of their children playing football.
Most of the attention on concussions in sports has centered on football, but a new study presented to the American Academy of Neurology shows that female athletes are more likely than men to suffer a concussion, even when football is considered. A study of 228 college athletes shows that 23% of women and 17% of men suffered concussions during their careers. Symptoms were similar except that men suffered more amnesia and women suffered more insomnia.
People who live extremely healthy lifestyles and have no family history, yet still develop cancer may wonder, “why me?” The answer? It’s a typo. A study in the journal Science finds that DNA typos are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the genetic changes that cause cancer, far more than those triggered by heredity or the environment. Researchers say overall, 66% of cancer mutations result from copying errors, 29% are due to lifestyle or the environment, and 5% are inherited.
And finally, firstborn children get all of their parents’ attention, at least for awhile, and don’t have to wear hand-me-downs. Now a study in the Journal of Human Resources finds that firstborns are also typically smarter than their younger siblings. Researchers say the results show up as early as age 1 and result from more parental engagement with the first-born child.
A blood test to diagnose cancer is a little bit closer. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified certain proteins in blood plasma, which if elevated indicate the patient has cancer. Scientists have found that nearly 2,400 so called phosphoproteins in plasma and have identified 144 that are significantly greater in people with cancer compared to healthy controls. Researchers hope that eventually blood tests can replace biopsies in cancer diagnosis and in monitoring patients after treatment.
With the arrival of baseball come pitching injuries, but an osteopathic manipulation may help prevent some of them. A study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association studied college players whose range of shoulder motion was decreased as a result of pitching. Researchers say a single administration of a manipulative treatment called the Spencer technique restored 85% of their rotation.
And finally a good sex life makes you much more productive at work. A study in the Journal of Management shows that employees have much more job satisfaction and engagement in their work the day after having sex. Researchers say the effect is just as strong for both men and women, and lasts for at least 24 hours. And that’s Medical Notes this week.
Synopsis: Scientists have learned that emotional trauma suffered as a child or adolescent has profound effects on a person’s physical health years later. Children who suffer multiple traumas such as loss of a parent and physical abuse are much more likely to experience cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases as adults. A noted science writer explains.
Host: Nancy Benson. Guest: Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal