Overcoming cardiac pacemaker "source-sink mismatch"

Instead of complication-prone electronic cardiac pacemakers, biomedical engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory envision the creation of “biological Read more

Hope Clinic part of push to optimize HIV vaccine components

Ten years ago, the results of the RV144 trial– conducted in Thailand with the help of the US Army -- re-energized the HIV vaccine field, which had been down in the Read more

Invasive cancer cells marked by distinctive mutations

What does it take to be a leader – of cancer cells? Adam Marcus and colleagues at Winship Cancer Institute are back, with an analysis of mutations that drive metastatic behavior among groups of lung cancer cells. The findings were published this week on the cover of Journal of Cell Science, and suggest pharmacological strategies to intervene against or prevent metastasis. Marcus and former graduate student Jessica Konen previously developed a technique for selectively labeling “leader” Read more

General Health

EPA Administrator Jackson leads town hall on children’s health

People don’t think of the Environmental Protection Agency as a public health agency, says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, but the EPA’s job is to protect the health of adults and children by safeguarding air and water and promoting clean communities. Jackson was the keynote speaker last week at a Children’s Health Town Hall at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Children eat more, drink more, and breathe more in proportion to their body weight than adults, and without the EPA our jobs as parents would be much more difficult, said Jackson. And although a renewed focus on reducing air pollution has significantly improved air quality, still millions of young people have asthma and are particularly susceptible to pollution, and there have been no limits on some pollutants, such as mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Last month the EPA presented the first national mercury and air toxicity standards for power plants, Jackson noted. This effort to cut emssions of mercury, arsenic, and other neurotoxins is a common sense goal that would save lives and prevent 17,000 premature deaths annually, she said.

Laura Seydel, Paige Tolbert , Stephanie Owens, EPA

The EPA recently named Emory and Georgia Tech as one of four new EPA Clean Air Research Centers and awarded $8 million to the new Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology (SCAPE) center. Center directors Paige Tolbert from Emory and Armistead (Ted) Russell from Georgia Tech will lead programs aimed at quantifying health effects from air mixtures containing toxic pollutants and studying the specific effects of toxic air on commuters, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with cardiac illnesses.

Russell noted the tremendous cost of air pollution, including millions of lost school days for asthmatic children, and the important of using study results as the basis for changes in policy.

A “Call to Action” panel of experts and advocates at the town hall suggested steps everyone can take to improve environmental health.

Environmental health champion Laura Seydel called for “zero waste zones” in homes, churches, and offices, and the outlawing of toxic chemicals to help create “zero toxic waste zones” in the bodies of adults and children.

Laura Seydel, Robert Geller

Dr. Robert Geller, director of the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Speciality Unit at Emory, and Director of the Georgia Poison Center, emphasized the importance of lowering exposure to toxic chemicals for children in the first two years of life, including contaminated soil. Civic leaders should expect the EPA to use the best science to advance its programs of reducing pollution.

Irene Barton of the Georgia PTA recommended using local school wellness councils to advocate for children.

Attorney Brian Gist of the Southern Environmental Law Center warned about mercury toxicity in Georgia fish and in sushi, and applauded efforts to regulate emission of mercury from coal-fired power plants.

Maeve Howett, an Emory pediatric nurse practitioner and a faculty member in Emory’s School of Nursing, encouraged everyone to make a personal commitment to choosing transportation that is less harmful to the environment, for the sake of children with asthma.

A videocast of the town hall is available.

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Holly Korschun in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Facing the Facts on Skin Care

Dr. Anita Sethna

Dr. Anita Sethna, director of the Emory Facial Center.

The desire to look good and feel great about ourselves doesn’t disappear when we hit 50, 60 or even age 70.  Caring for your skin is the most important way to impact the way you age.

“Looking good does not have to involve drastic procedures,” says Dr. Anita Sethna, director of the Emory Facial Center.  “There are small, simple and affordable ways to care for your calling card to the world:  your face.”

Dr. Sethna offers these tips:

  • Protect yourself against sun damage. Wearing makeup or moisturizer with sunscreen daily is incredibly important, advises Sethna.  The more careful you are about protecting yourself against even daily skin exposure, the less damage you will be causing your skin as you age; decreasing your chances of getting skin cancer and preserving the texture and plumpness of your skin.  This applies to all skin types, genders and degrees of pigmentation. She recommends products that give at least 30 UVA/UVB protection.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is not only horrible for your health, but is also horrible for your skin, she warns.  Nicotine causes a decrease in blood supply to the skin and reduces its ability to heal, eventually giving it a leathery look.
  • Some products can help. Moisturizers can benefit the appearance of aging skin and most any over-the-counter moisturizers will work.  Products containing retinol and antioxidants such as Vitamin C can stimulate collagen production, which is important for the skin’s elasticity and fullness. Sethna recommends prescription strength products for the best results, such as Retin-A, and skin lightners such as hydroquinone, which can even out skin tone.
  • For those who want to take a step further to prevent wrinkles, the careful use of Botox in certain areas of the face can reduce repeated motion of the skin and soften lines around the eyes, between the eyebrows and on the forehead.  Sethna says that in some cases, the injections can even prevent the formation of new lines on the face.

Sethna also wants us to remember that perfection is “fine when you’re talking about a painting or a new dress,” but our face is a different story.

“Perfection should not be a goal when you are talking about your appearance.  Your expression, quirks and small imperfections make you – you, and also make you beautiful.  You should not be embarrassed or ashamed at wanting to preserve that beauty.”

Posted on by Wendy Darling in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Common Health Issue Addressed this Afternoon in a Live Web Chat

Emory Heart & Vascular Center cardiologist, Khusrow Niazi, MD, will answer questions about peripheral artery disease (PAD) in a live web chat today from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Also called peripheral vascular disease, PAD occurs when arteries in the legs narrow as a result of atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the lining of blood vessels. When plaque builds up in the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body, they harden, narrow and clog, causing poor circulation. PAD often goes unrecognized, causing no symptoms at all – or symptoms you may think are something else, such as muscle cramps.

While difficulty walking may be the primary symptom, PAD can advance to complete arterial blockage and critical limb ischemia, causing painful foot ulcers, infections or even gangrene that requires amputation. It is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke and affects eight to 12 million people in the United States.

Dr. Niazi, assistant professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, will be available to answer questions and discuss various topics around PAD, including prevention, detection, healthy tips, rehabilitation and innovative new cardiovascular research on the horizon.

To join the interactive session, please visit the following link to register: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/heart-center-atlanta/chat-signup-form.html



Posted on by Jennifer Johnson in Uncategorized Leave a comment

Cervical Cancer – Can Be Hard to Detect

MedicalHorizon

The Pap smear – also called Pap test – is part of the standard annual wellness exam for women’s health and used as a first step in detecting cervical cancer.  But according to a recent article published in the International Journal of Cancer,  the Pap test may not provide reliable results for certain types of cancer that are harder to detect.

Kevin Ault, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine and investigator at the Emory Vaccine Center conducted a post-hoc analysis of the FUTURE I and FUTURE II (Gardasil) vaccine trials.  Based on that analysis Ault, a leading expert and pioneer in the field of human papilloma virus (HPV), says a regular Pap test is not always effective in diagnosing adenocarcinoma, because it starts high up in the cervical canal and may not be sampled by the Pap smear.

“There are a number of reasons the Pap smear could lead to inaccurate results. For example, the pathologist examining the cells could make an error, the gynecologist may not sample the cervix adequately or an infection could obscure the results,” says Ault.

According to Ault, andenocarcinoma is the second most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 20 percent of all cervical cancer cases. While the overall incident of cervical cancer is on the decline, Ault reports the proportion of cervical cancers that are andenocarcinoma is rising.

Cervical cancer is the eighth most common type of cancer in American women. More than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, and more than 4,200 women in the U.S. die from of this disease annually* according to the American Cancer Society.  Scientists believe that pre-invasive cervical cancer may develop over a period of months or years after the cervix is infected with the sexually transmitted HPV.

“The take-away from this recent paper is the HPV test would be a better test for the harder to detect adenocarcinoma cervical cancer, if not all cervical cancer,” says Ault.

* 2010 data

Posted on by Wendy Darling in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Emory cardiologist weighs in on issue of health literacy

Javed Butler, MD, MPH

A story in yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post claims that many Americans have poor health literacy. The Post cited a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Education that found that 36 percent of adults have only basic or below-basic skills for dealing with health material. According to the report, this means about 90 million Americans can understand discharge instructions written only at a fifth-grade level or lower.

Emory Healthcare heart transplant cardiologist, Javed Butler, MD, MPH, was included in yesterday’s Post article citing his experience with patients who have health literacy issues. “When we say ‘diet,’ we mean ‘food,’ but patients think we mean going on a diet,” said Butler. “And when we say ‘exercise,’ we may mean ‘walking,’ but patients think we mean ‘going to the gym.’ At every step there’s a potential for misunderstanding.”

Butler, a professor of medicine at the Emory School of Medicine and director of Heart Failure Research for Emory Healthcare is studying this issue and its impact on patients with heart failure. He recently reported some of his findings Nov. 17 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions conference in Chicago.

To read the entire Washington Post story, please click here.

Posted on by Jennifer Johnson in Uncategorized Leave a comment

How the fetal environment affects long-term health

David Barker, MD, PhD

Why do some people, given the same apparent set of risk factors, develop certain diseases and others do not? British scientist David Baker, MD, PhD, is examining this question from a unique perspective.

Barker, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, is a pioneer in a field known as fetal programming. Fetal programming is the process in which environmental influences during prenatal development alter the body’s structures—for life.

He and other experts spoke on the fundamentals of the subject recently at the first Predicting Lifespan Health Conference at Emory University. “What we’re really looking for is just a few core mechanisms, which are linked to early human development and lead to a plethora of disorders,” says Barker.

Emerging evidence suggests that chronic diseases of adult life, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, have their origin through fetal programming, explains Michelle Lampl, associate director of the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute. “These diseases and others are initiated by adverse influences before birth,” says Lampl.

Speakers addressed fetal programming and the placenta, long-term cardiovascular disease and kidney function in low birth-weight babies, epigenetics and immunity, as well as postnatal influences from infant diet and growth patterns.

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Emory Fellow and Heart Transplant Survivor Rides in Rose Parade

Dr.Shih and her husband Chad Aleman, MD, decorating and dedicating a rose on the actual float prior to the parade.

Dr.Shih and her husband Chad Aleman, MD, decorating and dedicating a rose on the actual float prior to the parade.

Jennifer Shih, MD, a current Fellow in the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and a heart transplant survivor, was an honored guest on the Donate Life float in the 2011 Rose Parade.

Dr. Shih, second from left, riding on the Donate Life float, which won the trophy for best theme

Dr. Shih, second from left, riding on the Donate Life float, which won the trophy for best theme

Dr. Shih was one of five winners who received a trip to Pasadena, California, and an opportunity to be in the Rose Parade through an essay contest sponsored by Astellas’ Ride of a Lifetime.

In 2004, after Dr. Shih had completed three years of pediatric residency to fulfill her dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist, her world was suddenly turned upside down.

She was on call one night Cincinnati Children’s Hospital when she started feeling tired and short of breath. She knew something was wrong. Instinctively, she performed an echocardiogram and found fluid around her heart.  Shih diagnosed herself with a heart condition, giant cell myocarditis.

Her condition quickly deteriorated and within a week of being hospitalized, she was told she would die without a heart transplant. She was placed on a BiVAD (Bi-ventricular Assist Device) to keep her alive.

Less than two weeks after self-diagnosis, she received a life-saving heart transplant.

Although she wasn’t able to practice pediatric cardiology anymore due to the activity and risk of infection exposure post-transplantation, she was able to change her specialty to allergy and immunology. Shih says her experience makes her a more empathetic doctor because she truly understands what it is like to be a patient.

Along with her family and friends, Shih created the Have a Heart Benefit Fund in 2004, which raises money to provide patient care, education and research the transplant field.  She says she has always loved helping people, and she felt this would be a great way of showing her appreciation to donor families.

“I would not be alive today without my gift of life. I am a testament to the impact becoming an organ donor can be. You can have the opportunity to save eight lives in one day by being an organ donor… how many of us would have that opportunity otherwise?” Shih asks.

Read Jennifer’s winning essay.

Posted on by Wendy Darling in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Fact or Fiction when it comes to colds

Man with a coldCongested, tired, coughing, icky… It’s a rare human being who hasn’t experienced a cold.

We take our miserable selves to the pharmacy and, in our cold stupor, we stand in front of the “cold and flu” aisle trying to figure what cold remedy actually works – or do any of them work? And how did we end up with this lousy cold anyway?!

In a CNN.com Health article, Emory physician Dr. Sharon Bergquist discusses how colds are transmitted, how long a cold should last, what makes people resistant and what treatments work.

Posted on by Wendy Darling in Uncategorized Leave a comment

A good reason to enjoy a little Valentine’s Day chocolate

From the Clinic to You

BY CHERYL WILLIAMS, RD, LD

If you’re looking for an excuse to indulge in the yummy chocolate you get this Valentine’s Day, research suggests it may not be so bad for you.

A number of studies, conducted over the last decade have associated cocoa and dark chocolate consumption with heart health benefits. These benefits come from cocoa, derived from the cacao plant, which is rich in flavonoids (cocoa flavanols to be exact). Flavonoids are antioxidants also found in berries, grapes, tea, and apples. As a whole, antioxidants prevent cellular damage and inflammation which are two major mechanisms involved in the development of heart disease.

So what does the research say?

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-flavanol dark chocolate reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) oxidation and increased good cholesterol (HDL) levels. LDL oxidation promotes the development of plaque and hardening of the coronary arteries, thus lessening oxidation could help to prevent heart disease.

A Harvard research study found that flavanol-rich cocoa induced nitric-oxide production, which causes blood vessels to relax and expand, thus improving blood flow. Improved coronary vasodilation could potentially lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.

In a double-blind randomized Circulation study flavonoid-rich dark chocolate (containing 70% cocoa) reduced serum oxidative stress and decreased platelet activity (clumping) in heart transplant recipients. This favorable impact on vascular and platelet function is relevant because vascular dysfunction and platelet activation (adhesion upon damaged cell wall) are the basis of atherothrombosis (blood clotting) and coronary artery disease.

How can you reap chocolate’s potential benefits?

Not all cocoa products and/or chocolates are created equal. Milk chocolate, for example, is not rich in flavanols (contains only 10-20% cocoa solids) and white chocolate contains none at all. In addition, some cocoa products and chocolates are processed with alkali, which can destroy flavanols.

Follow these tips for heart healthy chocolate consumption:

  • Avoid cocoa products processed with alkali (dutched) as seen in the ingredient list
  • Choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa
  • Enjoy 100% unsweetened non-dutched cocoa (great for hot chocolate!)

Also, remember that chocolate is not a health food, as it is high in calories, fat and added sugar. Thus, make room for dark chocolate by cutting extra calories elsewhere in your diet. Additionally, stick to small amounts (e.g. 1 ounce) and do not eat in place of plant-based whole foods such as vegetables and fruits.

Cheryl Williams is a registered dietitian at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center. She provides nutrition therapy, wellness coaching, monthly nutrition seminars and healthy cooking demonstrations working with the Emory HeartWise Cardiac Risk Reduction Program.

Posted on by Jennifer Johnson in Uncategorized 2 Comments

Study Finds Injection Drug Users Who Live Nearer to Syringe Exchange Programs Are Less Likely to Engage in HIV Risk Behaviors

Hannah Cooper

Hannah Cooper, ScD

Injecting drugs is one of the main ways people become infected with HIV in the United States. It is also the main way of becoming infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Injection drug users (IDUs) become infected and transmit the viruses to others through sharing contaminated syringes and through high-risk sexual behaviors. Now a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health offers evidence that proximity to legal syringe exchange programs and pharmacies selling over the counter syringe plays a role in reducing the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission in the U.S.

In a longitudinal study, Hannah Cooper, ScD assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and colleagues studied the behaviors of more than 4000 drug injectors from across 42 New York City health districts beginning in 1995 to 2006. The scientists set out to determine if the relationship of spatial access to syringe exchange programs and pharmacies selling over-the-counter syringes affected the likelihood that local injectors engaged in less HIV risk behaviors.

“It is a well-established fact that syringe exchange programs reduce HIV and related risk behaviors among injection drug users. Here, what we find is that proximity to a syringe exchange program is a powerful determinant of whether injectors inject with sterile syringes,” says Cooper.

The CDC estimates an individual injection drug user injects as many as 1,000 times a year. This adds up to millions of injections across the country each year, creating an enormous need for reliable sources of sterile syringes. Syringe exchange programs provide a way for those IDUs who continue to inject, to safely dispose of used syringes and to obtain sterile syringes at no cost. Many U.S. cities have just one or two syringe exchange programs, but Cooper and her team found IDUs with access to these services in their local neighborhoods were more likely to inject with sterile syringes.

“Our findings suggest that having a syringe exchange program in your neighborhood matters. We need to dramatically scale up the number of syringe exchange programs operating in U.S. cities to increase the number of injectors who live near such a program,” says Cooper.

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