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

Nia Project: Helping victims of violence

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, Emory School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, founded in the early 1990s the Grady Nia Project for abused and suicidal African-American women. Named for the Kwanzaa term that means “purpose,” Nia serves countless numbers of abused women who come through Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department each year.

The program is funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health, and Kaslow serves as principal investigator. Kaslow also serves as chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital and holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Psychology, Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and the Rollins School of Public Health.

Nadine Kaslow, PhD

Kaslow says the women in the Nia program, who either feel suicidal or have attempted suicide because of stress associated with violence, are victims of intimate partner violence and are usually black, minimally employed, with children and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many are homeless.

Nia is staffed 24/7. Some staffers may make a trip to the emergency department in the middle of the night when a woman comes in with injuries or a story consistent with intimate partner violence or when she has attempted suicide. If a woman enrolls in the program, she will join approximately 50 to 75 other women who are going through it at any given time.

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Eye diseases and immune system link studied

Drawing shows areas of the eye

Emory Eye Center researchers are looking at the role of the immune system in the inflammation of the eye and the progression of eye diseases.

Santa Ono, PhD, professor of ophthalmology, Emory School of Medicine and researcher at the Emory Eye Center, and Emory senior vice provost for undergraduate education and academic affairs, and his team at the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Ocular Immunology Lab, focus on the immune component of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), ocular cancer (melanoma and retinoblastoma) and ocular inflammation.

Santa J. Ono, PhD

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of sight impairment and blindness in older people. The macula, in the center of the retina, is the portion of the eye that allows for the perception of fine detail. AMD gradually destroys a person’s central vision, ultimately preventing reading, driving, and seeing objects clearly

In a recent article of Emory Magazine, Ono, an ocular immunologist, says, “If a person with AMD looks at graph paper, some of the lines will be wavy instead of straight. Certain parts of the image are no longer being transferred to the brain.”

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NIH at Emory to advance women’s heart health

NIH meets at Emory to discuss women's cardiovascular health and research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has convened a key meeting at Emory on women’s cardiovascular health and research. The meeting, co-hosted by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and Emory School of Medicine, is focused today and tomorrow on NIH planning of the women’s health research agenda for the next decade.

Vivian Pinn, MD, associate director for research on women’s health, and director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at NIH, opened the meeting with Emory’s conference chair, Nanette Wenger, MD, professor of medicine (cardiology), Emory School of Medicine, and chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Nanette K. Wenger, MD

In a career that spans more than 50 years, Wenger’s dedication to reducing women’s disability and death from cardiovascular disease has made her one of the country’s most-respected experts on coronary heart disease in women. In 2009, Wenger received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology.

Although Wenger has earned dozens of awards in her celebrated career, she says her greatest professional achievement has been to help change a major paradigm in cardiology: the assumption that heart disease affects only men. A half a century ago heart disease was thought of as a “man’s disease.”

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Stress increases health risks to mother and fetus

At Emory’s fifth annual predictive health symposium “Human Health: Molecules to Mankind,” Emory GYN/OB Sarah L. Berga, MD, discussed the state of childbirth in the United States and how maternal stress affects pregnant women and their fetuses.

Berga is McCord professor and chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory School of Medicine. Sadly, Berga has seen maternal mortality rise steadily since the 1980s when she entered her medical residency. Georgia, she says, has the worse maternal mortality in the country. And the United States fares worse than many countries when it comes to maternal mortality.

Despite the unfortunate rise in maternal mortality of late, the good news is physicians have now started to pay more attention to the effect of stress—both the physical and emotional kind—on women and their fetuses. Recent research shows stress has the same negative effect on the body as do organic diseases, such as thyroid disease. In fact, too much stress reduces thyroxine levels by about 50 percent, says Berga. But because there’s no clinical recognition of this, tests are needed to determine if thyroxine levels are indeed insufficient.

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Intervention: preventing trips to the trauma unit

Jana MacLeod, MD

Drunk drivers have been known to walk away from auto wrecks—but that’s unusual. In fact, the norm is this: those who drink before an accident of any kind, particularly a motor vehicle accident, have a much higher chance of being injured or dying than if they hadn’t been drinking at all.

So, Jana MacLeod, MD, and her colleagues trained surgical interns to conduct brief interventions on patients with alcohol-related injuries. MacLeod is an associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine. She says brief interventions offer patients a way to talk about their alcohol use with their physician, and then make behavioral changes if they so choose.

MacLeod talks about the benefits of these interventions in an Emory Sound Science podcast.

“Recent studies have shown brief alcohol interventions with trauma patients who have a history of alcohol misuse successfully prevented future episodes of drunk driving,” says MacLeod. What’s more, it’s been shown a five-minute intervention reduces hazardous drinking patterns up to three years after injury and decreases recidivism.

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Getting a good night’s sleep is key to health

Sleep expert David Schulman, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, pulmonary, Emory School of Medicine, and medical director for the Emory Sleep Disorders Laboratory, talks with Emory patients every day about how to get a good night’s sleep.

Get more sleep than a cat nap

Here, in his own words, Schulman discusses the topic of sleep:

There is growing evidence that sleeplessness can contribute to illness such as diabetes or heart disease, and many problems can arise when someone has not gotten a good night’s sleep – such as falling asleep while driving or while on the job. We all want to be as healthy as we can – eating right, exercising – and I can tell you that getting a good night’s sleep is just as important to overall health. If you have regular sleep problems, discussing this problem with your doctor may be the first step to finding a solution.

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Start the new year with eye care tips from experts

Emory Eye Center doctors Emily Graubart, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, and Paul Pruett, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Emory School of Medicine, say people often have misinformation about their eyes. They answer questions below to dispel myths about eye disease and eye care. Start the new year with knowledge about your eyes:

Paul Pruett, MD

Paul Pruett, MD

How often does an adult need to see an eye doctor?
“It depends on your age,” says Pruett, an expert in glaucoma. “In your 20s, 30s and 40s, about every two years is sufficient. If you have certain medical conditions, it may be necessary to be seen more often. For example, patients with diabetes should have their eyes examined every year, at the least. Many eye diseases can be asymptomatic, and early detection can prevent vision loss. This is especially true for glaucoma. Half of all patients with glaucoma do not know they have the disease.”

Is my computer work damaging my eyes?
“No, however, staring at a computer screen means you may not blink often and your eyes may become dry,” says Graubart, a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon. “Blinking more frequently while working on the computer, as well as using preservative-free artificial tears will help to reduce the dry-eye symptoms associated with long-term computer use.”

Emily Graubart, MD

Emily Graubart, MD

Do certain foods or vitamins help the eyes?
“While there are a lot of claims regarding vitamins and eye health, there are only a few conditions where studies have proven a benefit,” says Pruett. “In age-related macular degeneration, for instance, there is a certain formulation of vitamins and minerals that has been proven to reduce the rate of vision loss in certain populations of these patients. Despite these medicines being over-the-counter, it is important to discuss with your doctor whether vitamin therapy is right for you as there may be potential interactions with other medicines or conditions. In general, a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is the way to go, not only for eye health but also for your overall health.”

Why does reading get more difficult with age?
“We begin to lose our ability to focus up close, which is called presbyopia, between our late thirties and early forties,” says Graubart. “The natural lenses of our eyes become thicker and harder, and the muscles controlling the lens shape weaken making it more difficult to see up close. If you have not needed glasses before, you will likely do well with over-the-counter reading glasses. These glasses cannot damage your eyes. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam at age 40 to screen for diseases of the eye. At this visit, your ophthalmologist can tell you what prescription would work best for your eyes.”

Does reading in dim light or reading very small print damage your eyes?
“No. You may experience eye strain with both of these activities, but there will be no permanent damage to your eyes,” says Graubart. “More light helps to improve contrast and thus, allows you to read with greater ease.”

Are eye problems genetic?
“Not always,” says Pruett. “Although there is a higher risk for certain diseases, such as glaucoma that run in families, it does not mean you as a child will get every eye disease or disorder that your parents may have had. Problems that come purely with aging, such as cataracts, have no relation to parents. The important thing to remember is that if you have a family history of eye disease, you need to have thorough screenings at appropriate times in your life.”

Do eye exercises help vision?
“In children with certain convergence issues (crossed eyes), the exercises prescribed for them do help,” says Pruett. “However, in adults, eye exercises have shown no improvement in vision according to studies. Methods that promise to get rid of glasses by eye exercises are not viable.”

Does my toddler need an eye exam?
“Your child’s eyes are examined as a newborn by your pediatrician, and then again between ages six months and one year.“ says Graubart. “Your child’s vision should be tested by your pediatrician or an ophthalmologist at age three to three and one-half, earlier if your child can recognize images on the pediatric eye chart. If your child has a family history of eye disease, if you notice your child’s eye wandering, or if you have any concerns regarding their vision, they should be screened regularly and quickly referred to an ophthalmologist if there are any concerns.”

Learn more about the eye. Read about Emory Eye Center in Emory Eye magazine.

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World Alzheimer’s Day – brain health tips from Emory

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day 2009 and Emory’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center is part of an effort nationwide to address this disease through research and state-of-the-art care for patients.

Allan Levey, MD, PhD, chair of Emory’s Department of Neurology and an Alzheimer’s researcher and clinician, says millions of baby boomers are entering late adulthood and experts expect the number of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to increase drastically over the next several decades. Prevention and early detection are extremely important, he says.

Emory’s Center is a National Institute on Aging funded center focused on clinical trials and research for Alzheimer’s disease. It is the only comprehensive program in Georgia and one of only 32 nationwide.

Levey, who directs the Center, offers the tips for good brain health:

Stay socially active
Remaining socially engaged in activities that stimulate the mind and body can reduce stress levels and help maintain healthy connections among brain cells.

Stay active, say experts

Stay active, say experts

Be physically active
Exercising your body regularly is vital for maintaining good blood flow to the brain and encouraging the growth of new brain cells.

Stay mentally active
Your brain needs mental stimulation to allow it to function at its peak. Research shows that keeping the brain active helps increase its vigor and may strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even generate new ones.

Protect your head
Injury to the head can increase your risk of dementia as you get older. Make sure you wear a helmet when you ride a bike, skate, ski or engage in any activity where you may injure yourself.

Eat brain healthy foods
The brain, like the heart, needs the proper balance of nutrients, including protein and sugar, to optimally function. According to current research, certain foods appear to protect brain cells so increase your intake of these protective foods.

Levey says scientists are finding more clues that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes may increase a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. He says to keep your weight in a healthy range, lower your cholesterol if it is high and maintain control of your blood glucose and blood pressure.

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National Cholesterol Month: Check your numbers

Emory’s Cheryl Williams, RD, LD, clinical nutritionist for the Emory Heart & Vascular Center and Emory HeartWise Cardiac Risk Reduction Program, says you should make it a priority to know your cholesterol levels and learn how what you eat can impact cholesterol and your heart’s health.Williams heart

Since diets high in saturated fat and trans fat have been linked to chronic disease, specifically, heart disease, this knowledge could save your life.

During National Cholesterol Month Williams notes in her blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Doctor Is In” that eating too many fatty foods – especially those high in saturated fat and trans fat – is the primary cause of high cholesterol. Thin, active people may not be aware of how much bad fat they consume, she says.

According to Williams, “Saturated fats are derived primarily from animal products and are known to raise cholesterol levels. They are found in common foods like butter, cheese, whole milk, pork and red meat. Lower-fat versions of these foods usually contain saturated fats, but typically in smaller quantities than the regular versions. Certain plant oils, like palm and coconut oils, are another source of saturated fats. You may not use these oils when you cook, but they are often added to commercially baked foods, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts and pies.

Even more detrimental to cholesterol levels are trans fats, artificially created during food processing when liquid oils are converted into solid fats — a process called hydrogenation. Many fried restaurant foods and commercially baked goods contain trans fats, as well as vegetable shortening and stick margarine. Read labels and avoid foods that contain partially or fully hydrogenated oils.”

For more tips from Williams about managing for healthy cholesterol levels, visit ajc.com. To learn more about heart disease from Laurence Sperling MD, director of the Emory HeartWise Cardiac Risk Reduction Program, watch videos on health.com.

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Manage stress to your advantage

Recently Charles Raison, MD, assistant professor, Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, wrote a blog for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on stress. As clinical director of the Emory Mind-Body Program and director of the Behavioral Immunology Program, he has been studying stress.

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Raison says stress is everywhere today, both in our private and public lives, but also relentlessly in print, with discussion after discussion regarding what it is and what can be done to ease it.

He notes that you should think of stress like a sandwich. One trick for dealing with stress is to try to stay in the middle of the stress sandwich in the meat of life – the optimal challenge. The basic idea, he comments, is that you see what’s in front of you as a challenge, neither boring nor threatening, difficult enough to keep you fully engaged, easy enough for you to accomplish your goals.

You can read more by Raison by visiting the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Doctor Is In blog online.

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