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Viral vectors ready for delivery

The phrase “viral vector” sounds ominous, like something from a movie about spies and Internet intrigue. It refers to a practical delivery system for the gene of your Read more

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Research on lampreys’ variable lymphocyte receptors may seem impractical. Good examples exist of weird animals' immune systems becoming big Read more

Healthy lifestyle can lower blood pressure

A new study says that maintaining normal weight, daily vigorous exercise, eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and low in sodium, and taking a folic acid supplement is linked with lowering hypertension in women.

A healthy lifestyle helps your heart

A healthy lifestyle helps your heart

Reporting in the July 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists say that hypertension, or high blood pressure, contributes to more excess deaths in women than any other preventable factor. The researchers looked at the link between combinations of low-risk lifestyle factors and the risk of developing hypertension.

Allen Dollar, MD, preventive cardiologist with Emory Heart & Vascular Center, says the study by Harvard Medical School researchers points to the real benefit to women of deploying a healthy lifestyle to prevent hypertension or to control hypertension.

Essentially, this new report helps to confirm what preventive cardiologists share with women everyday, says Dollar, that they can help prevent or manage hypertension through a healthy approach to diet and exercise.

Generally, blood pressure above 140/90 is considered to be high for adults. Although hypertension can produce symptoms including fatigue, confusion, nausea, vision http://www.agfluide.com problems and excessive sweating, Dollar points out that the majority of women with mild to moderate hypertension have no symptoms that indicate their blood pressure is too high.

A blood pressure reading can reveal hypertension in the early stages when a strategy of diet changes, exercise and weight control and medication, if needed, can help prevent a host of high blood pressure related ills including heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke, says Dollar. If a woman does not know her blood pressure, she needs to find out. If a woman learns she has high blood pressure, she can use this news as an opportunity to take control of her health.

Learn more medical advances at Emory.

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New ways to pinpoint heart failure risk

Javed Butler, MD, MPH

Javed Butler, MD, MPH

An aging U.S. population, an increase in the prevalence of obesity and improved cardiovascular therapies for acute problems are boosting the number of people living with the condition of heart failure.

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, director of heart failure research at Emory Healthcare and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, is looking for new ways to prevent and treat heart failure.

According to Butler, heart failure is any condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the metabolic needs of the body, but that does not mean that the heart is not cheap oakleys pumping or the heart has stopped working. Heart failure is not a disease but a syndrome, so there’s a whole family of different diseases that can precede this condition. These are known collectively as heart failure.

In the clinic, Butler treats patients already diagnosed with heart failure. His research focuses on prevention through life style changes as well as models pinpointing who is at risk for heart failure.

Butler and his colleagues recently created the Health ABC Heart Failure Model for predicting risk of new onset heart failure in the elderly. That model has now been strengthened by validating it via a library of patient data from an earlier cardiovascular study. The results suggest the Health ABC risk model can be used to identify high-risk individuals for whom interventions can be cost-effectively targeted to prevent heart failure.

To hear Butler’s own discussion about heart failure, access the podcast from Emory’s Sound Science series.

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Health care reform: Wise allocation of resources key

Emory’s Chief Quality Officer William Bornstein, MD, PhD, says there are many issues that need to be tackled in order to achieve meaningful health care reform. He points out that one of the most fundamental questions that must be addressed is who decides about a treatment or diagnostic test that may be a little bit better than an alternative option but is much more expensive? If the patient has no “skin in the game,” he will almost certainly want the better/more expensive option.

William Bornstein, MD, PhD

William Bornstein, MD, PhD

The doctor has taken an oath to act in the best interests of the patient and this obligation takes precedence over any charge that society would like to impose to cast the Ray Ban Baratas physician in a fiduciary role for the national healthcare budget, says Bornstein, who also serves as chief medical officer for Emory Hospitals. And, the payer’s role is obviously conflicted, he says. If the patient does have skin in the that decision, Bornstein asks, are we prepared as a society to explicitly endorse the notion that “better” care that exceeds a certain cost threshold will only be available to those who can afford the additional cost?

There has been much talk about better care and preventative care being less expensive, but there are little data that support this as being a universal truth. Health care information ray ban outlet technology will also not solve this problem, he says. At some point in the near future, we need to have a national conversation about this challenge. In the past attempts to have such conversations have raised the specter of “rationing,” However, the time has come to confront the truth that our resources are finite and we need to allocate them wisely.

Bornstein is a recognized leader in quality, safety and the use of information technology in improving healthcare delivery. He has serves on national committees and advisory bodies in these areas including the University HealthSystem Consortium Clinical Evaluative Sciences Council Steering Committee, which he now chairs. He serves on the Professional and Technical Advisory Committee for the hospital accreditation process of The Joint Commission as vice-chair, and on the Information Architecture Steering Committee of the University HealthSystem Consortium staff leadership group of the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Evidence Based Medicine.

Listen to podcasts with Bornstein on quality.

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Michael J. Fox Foundation supports Emory research

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research just announced plans to fund Emory pharmacology researcher Zixu Mao in his work to validate therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Zixu Mao, PhD

Zixu Mao, PhD

The two-year, $250,000 grant will fund research in Mao’s lab in the departments of neurology and pharmacology. He and his team hope to verify whether a particular protein – MEF2D – may be a good drug target in models of PD. If it is, his efforts will provide the basis for further research to identify ways to manipulate the activity of this protein as a way to treat PD.

Mao says this type of study is very important Maglie Calcio to allow the transition from findings made by basic research to more clinically relevant discoveries and is generally difficult to get funded by other major funding sources.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. Learn more about Mao’s research.

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Emory, Georgia Tech tackle abdominal aortic aneurysms

Robert Taylor, MD

Robert Taylor, MD

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are a major cause of illness and death in the U.S., with the incidence increasing dramatically over the age of 55. These aneurysms are a widening and bulging of the large artery that runs through the body from the heart into the abdomen. They often go undetected until they suddenly rupture, often resulting in death within minutes.

A team of physicians and engineers from Emory and Georgia Tech is studying the biology and biomechanics of vascular inflammation and disturbed blood flow in AAAs to understand how they develop and could be prevented or detected earlier.

Cardiologist and biomedical engineer Robert Taylor is leading the Biomedical Engineering Partnership, funded by $6 million from the NIH.

Taylor points out that predicting the likelihood of aneurysm rupture is extremely difficult and patients often don’t notice them until they already are leaking or ruptured. Even small aneurysms often expand rapidly and rupture. He and his team will try to pin down specific risk factors for AAAs, which they think differ from traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

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Many roads to memory T cells

When our bodies encounter a bacteria or a virus, the immune system sends some cells out to fight the invader and keeps others in reserve, in order to respond faster and stronger the next time around. Vaccination depends on this phenomenon, called immunological memory.

Several recent papers — from Emory and elsewhere – provide insight into this process, and highlight this area of research as especially active lately.

Researchers led by Rafi Ahmed and Chris Larsen at Emory found that rapamycin, a drug usually given to transplant patients to block rejection, actually stimulates the formation of memory T cells. Rapamycin appears to nudge immune cells when they have to make a decision whether to hunker down to become a memory cell.

The immunosuppressant drug rapamycin was discovered in soil from Easter Island

The immunosuppressant drug rapamycin was discovered in soil from Easter Island

Similarly, the anti-diabetes drug metformin, which affects fatty acid metabolism, can also stimulate the formation of memory T cells, according to research that was published in the same issue of Nature.

In addition, Wnt signaling, which plays critical roles in embryonic development and cancer, influences memory T cell formation as well, according to a July paper in Nature Medicine.

To summarize — pushing on several different “buttons” produces the same thing: more memory T cells. How are the wires behind the buttons connected? Work by Ahmed and others may eventually help enhance vaccine efficacy or fight cancer with the immune system.

Rapamycin, the focus of the Ahmed/Larsen paper, was also recently found to slow aging in mice. However, with previous anti-aging research findings, translating results into the human realm has been a considerable challenge.

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U.S. News ranks Emory University Hospital

America's Best HospitalsToday, U.S. News and World Report issued the 2009-10 America’s Best Hospitals.

Emory University Hospital ranked among the nation’s best hospitals in 11 specialties. Overall, Emory is one of only 170 hospitals, out of more than 5,400 medical centers in the country to be named in even one of the magazine’s top 50 specialty rankings.

Emory is recognized in this year’s comprehensive report for excellence in:

Specialty and Rank
Ophthalmology – 9
Psychiatry – 10
Geriatrics – 13
Heart and Heart Surgery – 13
Neurology and Neurosurgery – 14
Ear, Nose and Throat – 22
Kidney Disease – 25
Diabetes/Endocrinology – 31
Gynecology – 44
Urology – 44
Cancer – 46

U.S. News says it looks at, “how well these institutions do in complex and demanding situations—replacing an 85-year-old’s heart valve, diagnosing and treating a spinal tumor, and dealing with inflammatory bowel disease, to name three examples. High-stakes medicine calls for more than the usual brand of doctoring.”

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Small, single incision for surgery helps young patients

Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta pediatric physician Dr. Mark Wulkan is among the first surgeons in Georgia to perform single-site incision surgery on pediatric patients for routine surgeries.

Dr. Mark Wulkan

Dr. Mark Wulkan

Dr. Wulkan is using this method for multiple procedures, including appendectomy, removal of the spleen, and stomach surgery.

“Single-site surgery takes minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery) to the next level,” said Dr. Wulkan, is an associate professor of surgery and pediatrics in the Emory University School of Medicine and who performs surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. “Children leave the operating room with virtually no scars.”

Traditional laparoscopic surgical incisions are made in different locations on the abdominal wall, resulting in several small scars. The single-site method, however, is considered scarless because only one incision is made in the belly button and is typically difficult to see. Pediatric patients who undergo single-site procedures enjoy all the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, such as rapid recovery and less pain than that associated with traditional open surgery.

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Expert studies collective decision-making

Gregory Berns

Gregory Berns

Greg Berns, MD, PhD, is the Emory psychiatrist who heads the Center for Neuropolicy. The Center focuses on how the brain influences decision-making in politics, policy and business. The center involves School of Medicine, Emory College and Goizueta Business School researchers.

Berns says, “We all live in groups. Sometimes groups make good decisions, but groups often behave worse than any of its members would. We’re approaching the problem of collective decision-making from a new perspective by studying how the human brain functions in groups.”

Center members advise decision-makers of all kinds by conducting experiments focused on biologically based pressures that influence collective decision-making. Through their discoveries, researchers will better understand how culture, intelligence and environment influence the way decisions are made and how basic human tendencies drive judgment in certain situations.

As Berns points out, people also need to understand how religious and political ideologies become transformed in the brain and can subvert basic self-survival value judgments, a phenomenon that occurs in war and terrorism.

“Collective decision-making is political, but politics are biological,” says Berns. “The human brain evolved to function in social groups. By discovering how our brains are wired to behave in groups, we can find solutions to problems of global impact.”Berns is the author of Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment and Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently.

Learn more in the Center media kit, Emory Health magazine or listen to a podcast.

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Emory and Georgia Tech

Over the past twenty years, the research partnership between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed into one of the leading bioengineering and biomedical research and educational programs in the nation. In recent years this partnership has resulted in the development of several pieces of diagnostic and medical-assistant technology, with medical experts on the Emory side working with engineers on the Georgia Tech side.

An example of this collaboration is the El-E robot, designed to perform simple tasks such as opening drawers and retrieving objects. Clinicians at Emory’s School of Medicine and engineers at Georgia Tech created the 5½-foot-tall machine, which glides across the floor on wheels and takes direction from a laser pointer that users can control in a variety of ways, depending on their preferences and capabilities. El-E is no mere toy, however: The machine could help patients with significant motor impairments, such as sufferers of ALS, maintain their independence and help relieve physical and financial burdens faced by caregivers.

 

Another result of the Emory-Georgia Tech collaboration is DETECT, a portable device capable of detecting the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, in any environment. DETECT has a helmet device that includes an LCD display in a visor, along with a computer and noise-reduction headphones. DETECT gives the patient a battery of words and pictures to assess cognitive abilities—reaction time and memory capabilities. The low-cost test takes approximately 10 minutes. The device was co-developed by emergency medicine physician David Wright, and Michelle LaPlaca, a scientist in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

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