New Book On Advances In DNA Research Focuses On Disease Prevention

In the fall of 2005, leading scientists from the National Cancer Institute announced the beginning of the cancer genome atlas project, a large-scale endeavor to map every gene implicated in cancer and the first step toward development of new therapies for treating this still baffling disease. This spin-off of the human genome project is only the latest exciting research advance in a decades-long quest to fully understand the biochemistry of the human body and thereby gain insights into the secrets of health, disease, and aging.

In the new book DNA: How the Biotech Revolution Is Changing the Way We Fight Disease (Prometheus Books) biochemist and veteran lab researcher Frank H. Stephenson tells the compelling story of how scientists on many fronts are succeeding in the battle against disease.

According to Stephenson, efforts to understand the nature of disease, down to its component molecular foundation, have reached an unprecedented intensity. “There is an excitement out there, an expectation, that we are but a little ways away from stopping cancer in its tracks, from curing diabetes, and from preventing afflictions such as Alzheimer’s, AIDS, and malaria,” he says. “There is the sense that each gene we discover, each molecular pathway we elucidate brings us closer to cures.”

With a gift for making the complexities of genetics and biochemistry understandable to the average reader, Stephenson offers a fascinating tour of the mechanisms of our body and the therapeutic techniques that are gaining in sophistication and effectiveness every year. From heart disease to AIDS and cancer, he helps you understand how the tools of biotechnology are being used to combat our most common afflictions. Stephenson examines a wide variety of health threats and illnesses: HIV infection, the many forms of cancer, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and even erectile dysfunction. Each is discussed in terms of its root cause and treatment in plain, jargon-free language that not only educates but also entertains.

In DNA, Stephenson offers many insights into both the diseases that destroy health and the great promises that biotechnology offers for preserving and prolonging a healthy life. New Scientist called it “??¦a spirited riposte to those who argue that molecular biology and genome mapping will never make major contributions to human well-being??¦Crisply written in 40 mini-chapters, it makes a vivid introductory guide to an ongoing revolution.”

Frank H. Stephenson, Ph.D. (Pacifica, CA), has worked in the biotechnology industry for many years. He is the author of Calculations for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, as well as book chapters and articles on biochemistry.

Contact: Lynn Pasquale

Prometheus Books

Wood Smoke Exposure Multiplies Damage From Smoking, Increases Risk Of COPD

Smokers who are exposed to wood smoke, either through home heating and cooking or through ambient neighborhood pollution, are not only at increased risk of COPD, but are also more likely to have epigenetic changes in the DNA that further increase their risk of COPD and related pulmonary problems.

Together, smoking, wood smoke exposure and these epigenetic changes can increase an individual’s risk of COPD fourfold.

“When cigarette smokers are exposed to wood smoke their risk of having reduced lung function increases,” explained lead author Yohannes Tesfaigzi, Ph.D. senior scientist and director of COPD Program at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, where the research was completed. “Cigarette smokers who have both changes in sputum DNA and are exposed to wood smoke have a synergistically increased risk of having reduced lung function and other indicators of COPD such as chronic mucous hypersecretion. ”

The research was published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Tesfaigzi and colleagues administered questionnaires to more than 1800 current and former smokers between 40 and 75 years old, and obtained demographic and smoke exposure information, as well as sputum samples which were analyzed for epigenetic changes to eight genes known to be associated with lung cancer.

They found that wood smoke exposure was significantly and independently associated with an increased risk of respiratory disease, especially among current smokers, non-Hispanic whites and men. Furthermore, wood smoke exposure was associated with specific COPD outcomes in people who had aberrantly methylated p16 or GATA4 genes, and both factors together increased the risk more than the additive of the two risk factors together. They also found that people with more than two of the eight genes analyzed showing methylation were also significantly more likely to have a lower than predicted FEV1 than those with fewer than two methylated genes.

“Because exposure to wood smoke appears to increase the risk of reducing lung function, cigarette smokers should try to avoid heating their homes or cooking with wood stoves and try to avoid environments where wood smoke is likely (for example, neighborhoods where wood smoke is common),” said Dr. Tesfaigzi. “Because the same gene changes were associated with increased risk for lung cancer one would assume that wood smoke exposure also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Future studies may show that it would be appropriate to screen patients for lung cancer if these exposures were present for prolonged periods.”

Based on these findings, Dr. Tesfaigzi and colleagues established an animal model that will be able to further test whether both wood and tobacco smoke exposure cause more damage to the lung than either one of the exposures alone. “We observed increased inflammatory response in mice that were exposed to both cigarette smoke and low concentrations of wood smoke compared to those exposed to cigarette smoke only. We would like to use this animal model to determine the mechanisms underlying this exacerbation,” said Dr. Tesfaigzi.

Because wood smoke exposure was documented by self-report and was not quantified in this study, in the future Dr. Tesfaigzi also intends to characterize the type and amount of wood smoke the participants were exposed to. Such studies will help to further refine the analysis and provide intervention strategies.


American Thoracic Society (ATS)

Launch Of Lung Health Check On WebMD Announced By COPD Foundation

The COPD Foundation announces launch of the Lung Health Check, developed in an educational collaboration with WebMD. Development of the Lung Health Check was made possible by funding from the COPD Foundation.

The Lung Health Check is an educational platform at webmd/lung-disease-health-check that both teaches the key symptoms and risks of developing lung disease, and suggests appropriate steps to take to prevent or manage disease. This solution offers a quick check on the effects that a breathing problem is having on a person’s life, and offers suggestions both for those already diagnosed with a lung problem and those with respiratory symptoms as yet undiagnosed. The Lung Health Check will not give out medical advice, but is intended to serve as an educational resource and tool.

“The COPD Foundation is extremely excited about this collaboration with WebMD and to be able to provide a resource on lung health,” said John W. Walsh, President of the COPD Foundation. Walsh said the new platform will help “inform, educate, empower and engage individuals to learn more about their lung health,” and enable more effective interaction with healthcare providers.

“Those of us already diagnosed with lung conditions like COPD understand the importance of early and complete diagnosis and the value of ‘learn more breathe better’,” said Walsh. He said the Lung Health Check will be “a resource to millions of people searching for answers” to their shortness of breath.

“Millions have been diagnosed with lung problems and millions more have symptoms suggesting a possible lung problem, shortness of breath or cough or phlegm production, but remain undiagnosed,” said Byron Thomashow, MD, Chairman of the COPD Foundation.

“Most lung problems are treatable but can only be treated if properly diagnosed,” Thomashow said. “The Lung Health Check allows people with respiratory complaints to get a better idea of their lung health and then share the results with their healthcare provider. For some, the Lung Health Check may be a place to start. For others it may be a place to gauge one’s progress.”

After completing the Lung Health Check, users receive three customized reports that focus on various aspects of health and offer suggestions such as how to ask for help, reduce stress, get better sleep and stay active.

This online solution is designed to assist both health care providers – physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists – and people concerned about their own lung health or that of their family members. Patients can print the reports and bring them to a physician, which may aid in diagnosis.

The Lung Health Check also provides access to a wealth of information and resources. It teaches people to take an active role in managing their disease, including how to follow a medication regimen, and explains the kinds of testing needed for proper diagnosis (such as spirometry for COPD).

The Lung Health Check is just one of several programs the COPD Foundation has created to spread awareness of COPD for the year 2010, which the World Health Organization has designated “The Year of the Lung.”

The Lung Health Check is an educational collaboration between WebMD and the COPD Foundation. The Lung Health Check is not a program of the American Thoracic Society.

About COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. and is expected to become the third by 2020. COPD is the only one of the leading causes of death which is still increasing in mortality. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates that 24 million Americans have COPD, but only half of them are diagnosed; the other 12 million don’t know they have COPD and are not receiving appropriate treatment. The cost of COPD health care for American taxpayers in 2007 is estimated at $42.6 billion.

Ifdy Perez

COPD Foundation

Families Of Children With Autism Are Plagued By Financial Struggles

The information that a child has been diagnosed with autism often throws parents into an emotional tailspin. A new study from a University of Missouri researcher says most people don’t immediately consider the major financial struggles that follow. She suggests more outreach is needed to help families plan and cope with the profound financial life changes they may face.

“As a parent, the diagnosis of autism upends your world,” said Deanna Sharpe, associate professor of personal financial planning in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences and whose own son was diagnosed with the disorder. “It is important for us to hear the voices of families who have financial struggles. There is strong pressure to do everything you can for your child. However, there is a great potential for families to spend a lot of money on therapy or new ideas that may be ineffective. Careful evaluation of therapies is important.”

Some of the costs include specialized child care, speech and language therapy, other types of one-on-one therapy, special interventions, and costly food or drug supplements. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a widely respected and recommended behavioral intervention, can be expensive. This intervention requires children to work one-on-one with a trained therapist for 30 to 40 hours each week. In the study, some parents reported paying as much as $30,000 a year for ABA therapy. Parents whose child with autism was destructive also reported paying compensation and replacements costs for items that were destroyed.

Some families quoted in the study reported skipping meals to be able to afford therapy for their children. Others talked about robbing their future by depleting savings, emptying their 401K plans, selling stocks and even filing for bankruptcy. More costs are added to some families who need counseling and medication for themselves in order to cope with the stress of raising a child with autism, further straining the family budget.

Sharpe says it is important to begin financial planning as soon as a diagnosis is made. She suggests financial planners need to help direct families to available resources and help them think seriously about the implications of spending all their retirement money on various therapies or having one parent step out of the job force to care for a child when other options could be available.

“Autism has a startlingly huge impact on society,” Sharpe said. “We know early intervention can influence how well a child will do later in life. It’s a human capital investment that can prevent or reduce the need for public support when a child with autism becomes an adult. However, it is costly to obtain this intervention.”

The study – “Financial Problems Associated with Having a Child with Autism: How Financial Advisors Can Help” – won the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education outstanding conference paper award. The study was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. Dana Baker, University of Washington, co-authored the study.

Source: Jennifer Faddis

University of Missouri-Columbia

PARI LC Plus And PRONEB Ultra Used In Two Perforomist Studies On Improving COPD Therapies

In two recent COPD studies sponsored by DEY LP, PARI’s LC Plus nebulizer and PRONEB compressors (Ultra and Ultra II) were used to show that nebulized formoterol fumarate (Perforomist, DEY LP, Mylan Inc.) improves pulmonary function.

“We are pleased that researchers chose PARI products as the exclusive nebulizer systems for recent studies comparing maintenance treatments for COPD. Sutherland et al. used an open-label crossover design allowing researchers to catalog patient preferences regarding medication delivery. Patients felt greater treatment satisfaction and perceived better control of their COPD with nebulized formoterol fumarate delivered by PARI’s LC Plus and PRONEB Ultra II. These results are consistent with other studies,” said Lisa Cambridge, RRT, director of clinical development at PARI Respiratory Equipment.

The Sutherland et al. study, published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, compared nebulized formoterol fumarate to ipratropium/albuterol delivered via a metered dose inhaler. The study concluded that nebulized formoterol fumarate significantly improved pulmonary function and was more satisfactory to COPD patients than treatment with ipratropium/albuterol delivered via MDI.

The Tashkin et al. study, presented at the American Thoracic Society conference last month, looked at the effectiveness of adding nebulized formoterol fumarate, delivered via PARI’s LC Plus and PRONEB Ultra, to maintenance tiotropium compared to placebo/tiotropium. The study concluded that adding nebulized formoterol fumarate to maintenance tiotropium in COPD subjects provided significant improvements in pulmonary function, dyspnea, and rescue albuterol use over tiotropium alone. The incidence of adverse events was lower during treatment with formoterol/tiotropium compared to placebo/tiotropium.

The PARI LC Plus nebulizer and PARI PRONEB Ultra compressor were used exclusively in pivotal clinical trials for Perforomist Inhalation Solution and are listed in the package insert.

About PARI Respiratory Equipment, Inc.

PARI is a leading worldwide developer and manufacturer of fast and efficient aerosol delivery systems for patients with asthma, chronic lung disease, and cystic fibrosis. PARI’s worldwide vision is to improve the lives of those affected by respiratory diseases and those who care for them.

Maker of the world’s leading breath-enhanced reusable nebulizer, the PARI LC PLUS, and the new PARI LC Sprint nebulizer line, PARI also manufactures the award winning PARI TREK S compact compressor, Bubbles the Fish II aerosol mask, and durable PARI PRONEB Ultra II. PARI’s Vortex anti-static valved holding chamber improves the aerosol deposition of metered dose inhalers (MDIs)

Source: PARI Respiratory Equipment, Inc

Anti-Ageing Gene Linked To Alzheimer’s

SIRT1, a gene associated with anti-ageing has been linked to the production of an Alzheimer’s protein according to a study in Cell.

Researchers at MIT found that SIRT1 appears to prevent production of damaging A-beta peptides that make up amyloid plaques which form in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. They also showed that learning and memory improved when SIRT1 – protein was overproduced in the brain of mice engineered to develop Alzheimer’s.

SIRT1 is a “rescue gene” that repairs the damage done by free radicals and prevents cells from dying prematurely. The gene also causes mitochondria, the power plants of cells, to produce energy at higher levels that are typically associated with younger cells.

Alzheimer’s Society comment:

‘SIRT1 certainly appears to be everybody’s favourite gene at the moment. Activated by calorie restriction and a compound found in red wine, research has shown that it can help animals live longer. Now scientists may have linked it to the control of a key protein associated with the development of Alzheimer’s-type dementia.’

‘Much more research is now needed before we can find out if drugs that activate SIRT1 could be used to fight dementia. However, dementia research is desperately underfunded. Dementia receives eight times less funding than cancer research. If we are to beat dementia we must invest today to find a cure for tomorrow.’

Dr Susanne Sorensen

Head of Research

Ref: SIRT1 Suppresses beta-Amyloid Production by Activating the alpha-Secretase Gene ADAM10,” Gizem Donmez, Diana Wang, Dena E. Cohen, and Leonard Guarente. Cell, July 23, 2010.


Alzheimer’s Society

Alzheimer’s Foundation Of America Showcases New Jewelry Line To Honor Caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
(AFA) has introduced a jewelry line that, in addition to being highly
fashionable, makes more than merely a fashion statement: it is designed to
recognize the heroic act of caregiving and to raise awareness of
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The line consists of a necklace, bracelet and lapel pin — each with a
sterling silver pendant modeled after AFA’s logo of arms embracing a heart.
The logo reflects the organization’s mission of providing optimal care to
individuals with dementia and their families.

“Caregivers give from the deepest recesses of their hearts. Our goal is
to recognize the selflessness and strength of these exceptional human
beings in light of the enormity of their role,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s
chief executive officer.

AFA expects the jewelry to especially touch caregivers of individuals
with Alzheimer’s disease or other illnesses, and their families, as well as
to have universal appeal due to its artistic look.

An estimated five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which
results in loss of memory and other cognitive functions; the incidence is
expected to triple by mid-century. There is an estimated one to four
caregivers for each person with the disease.

A recent AFA survey of caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s
disease, conducted by Harris Interactive, highlighted caregivers’ massive
responsibilities: More than 70 percent attend appointments with their loved
ones, help plan and organize their lives, and aid in day-to-day activities.
The survey also found that 76 percent of caregivers have learned that they
are stronger than they thought.

Proceeds from the jewelry will support AFA’s programs, including grants
to member organizations to enhance local services. The Alzheimer’s
Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization based in New York City,
unites hundreds of member agencies nationwide that provide hands-on
services to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and
their families.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

‘Growing’ New Approach In Training To Improve Dementia Care

Growing, the last book in Alzheimer’s Society’s Feelings Matter Most series, will be launched at the third national Dementia Congress in Bournemouth.

The series challenges current practises and urges dementia care trainers to give dementia care the time it needs. Growing highlights the need to grow training from simple awareness raising to developing evidence-based learning.

Author David Sheard sets clear guidelines for organisations to develop a person-centred learning and development training strategy. In Growing, David offers health professionals a unique ten point workshop programme designed for practical delivery by accomplished trainers in the dementia care environment.

Neil Hunt, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive said,

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing; it is caused by diseases of the brain and robs people of their lives. This series takes a fresh look at how we can best support people with dementia and confronts preconceived ideas about how to ensure the best quality care for the 700,000 people living with the condition in the UK.

The publication is part of a series of books being produced by Alzheimer’s Society. To order a copy of any Alzheimer’s Society publications please telephone 01736 336995 or visit alzheimers


- Pictures of the publication available on request
- 1 in 3 older people will end their lives with a form of dementia
- 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051. 1 in 6 people over 80 have dementia
- Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and those who care for them. Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- As a charity, Alzheimer’s Society depends on the generosity of the public to help it care, research and campaign for people with dementia. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers

Alzheimer’s Society

COPD Symptoms Worsened By Marijuana In Current Cigarette Smokers

Marijuana worsens breathing problems in current smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference, on Tuesday, May 22.

The study found that among people 40 and older, smokers were two-and-a-half times as likely as nonsmokers to develop COPD, while smoking cigarettes and marijuana together boosted the odds of developing COPD to three-and-a-half times the risk of someone who did not smoke either cigarettes or marijuana – in other words, adding marijuana smoking to cigarette smoking increased the risk by one-third, says Wan Tan, M.D., of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The odds of cigarette smokers having any respiratory symptoms was 2.36 times that of nonsmokers, while the odds of someone who smoked both cigarettes and marijuana having respiratory symptoms was 18 times that of someone who smoked neither – an eightfold jump in risk, Dr. Tan says.

“This study suggests an interaction between cigarettes and marijuana smoking. These findings have not been reported before, and they have a big public health implication,” Dr. Tan says.

A majority of cigarette smokers in the study were also marijuana smokers. In both younger and older adults in the study, 30% smoked both cigarettes and marijuana. Among younger cigarette smokers, 76% also smoked marijuana, while 58% of older cigarette smokers also smoked marijuana.

The findings come from a study of 648 adults ages 18 and older who answered questions on smoking, including their cigarette and marijuana use, and respiratory symptoms. Study subjects ages 40 and older had lung function tests.

The Vancouver researchers decided to study both marijuana and cigarette smoking because both cigarette and marijuana smoking is prevalent in their area, says Dr. Tan. They found that 49% of participants ages 18 to 39 and 46% of those 40 and older had smoked marijuana at least once. Among 18-39 year-olds, 17% said they currently smoked marijuana, compared with 13% in the 40+ age group. In the younger group, 31% said they had ever smoked cigarettes, and 16% were current smokers. In the 40+ group, 52% were ever-smokers while 16% were current smokers.

“The Impact of Cigarette and Marijuana Smoking in Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease Study in Vancouver, Canada” (Session C38; Abstract # 681; Poster Board # L42)

Contact: Suzy Martin

American Thoracic Society

Alzheimer’s Society Comment On Research Suggesting That Sleep Disorder May Be An Early Sign Of Dementia Or Parkinson’s Disease

People who act out their dreams through kicking and crying out in their sleep may go on to develop dementia or Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology.

In the research 93 people with REM sleep behaviour disorder who had no signs of a neurodegenerative disease were followed for an average of five years. 26 participants developed a neurodegenerative disease – fourteen developed Parkinson’s disease, seven Lewy body dementia and four Alzheimer’s disease.

Lewy body dementia is very rare, affecting just 4% of all dementia cases in the UK. It shares symptoms with both Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s.

People with Lewy body dementia often have vivid nightmares, restless sleep and hallucinations. This study suggests that people with the disease may experience sleep disorders years before these other symptoms develop.

One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years. This important finding could boost our understanding of how Lewy body dementia develops and help us detect it early. With further research we may be able to stop this devastating disease in its tracks. With the right investment, dementia can be defeated.

Dr Susanne Sorensen
Head of Research
Alzheimer’s Society

R.B. Postuma, MD, J.F. Gagnon, PhD, M. Vendette, BSc, M.L. Fantini, MD, J. Massicotte-Marquez, PhD, J. Montplaisir, MD. Quantifying the risk of neurodegenerative disease in idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder. Online version of Neurology, 24 December 2008

Alzheimer’s Society funds health and social research, selected by experts, people with dementia and carers.

1 in 3 people over 65 will die with dementia.

700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051.

Alzheimer’s Society campaigns for and champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions who care for them. Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As a charity, Alzheimer’s Society needs to raise money to care for people today and to find a cure for tomorrow. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.

Alzheimer’s Society