NIH Research Matters
July 2006 Archive
JULY 21, 2006
A hormone detected in a simple blood test can identify patients with sickle cell disease who have developed a life-threatening complication called pulmonary hypertension, according to new research by scientists with NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The hormone is also a clear predictor of death in adults with sickle cell disease. This test may one day help doctors identify patients for earlier treatment.
Fossil records can't tell us where the building blocks of language appeared on the evolutionary timeline. But brain imaging might. New research shows that a shared ancestor to humans and the rhesus monkey (or macaque) may have had the neural mechanisms upon which language was built. When contemplating the coos and screams of a fellow member of its species, the macaque uses brain regions that correspond to the two principal language centers in the human brain.
"High-throughput screening" isn't a term that comes up too often in polite conversation outside of scientific circles. But in the scientific community, it's all the rage. For most of scientific history, researchers discovered new chemical compounds through a labor-intensive, time-consuming process, manually testing compounds on tissue samples or laboratory animals.
JULY 14, 2006
Some recent studies suggest that an urban community's design can affect how heavy its residents are. A new study suggests that community features can also affect obesity in rural neighborhoods. Researchers at Saint Louis University's School of Public Health have linked several environmental factors, including being far from a recreational facility and feeling unsafe from crime or traffic, with a higher risk of obesity in rural communities.
Researchers have confirmed that a previously-discovered gene variant increases susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. The good news is that even people with the highest genetic risk benefited from healthy lifestyle changes.
Many people think of obesity as a line to cross; if your body mass index (BMI — a ratio of weight to height) is 30 or more, you're at greater risk for a variety of health problems. A new study, however, shows that the heavier you are, the greater your health risks, beginning in the overweight category (BMI 25-29.9).
JULY 7, 2006
Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, leading to more than 75,000 deaths each year. A new study shows that those who begin drinking earlier in life are at greater risk for developing a dependence on alcohol.
Brain-wasting diseases that kill by causing sponge-like holes in the brain are believed to be caused by abnormal forms proteins called prions. Scrapie in sheep, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans, mad cow disease in cattle and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk are all examples of this family of diseases.
Melanomas are tumors that arise from the cells that produce skin pigment. While not the most common type of skin cancer, they are the most serious. This year, over 62,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Researchers have now uncovered a complex interaction of two genes that dramatically affects the chance of developing melanoma.
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About NIH Research Matters
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Assistant Editors: Vicki Contie, Carol Torgan, Ph.D.
NIH Research Matters is a weekly update of NIH research highlights from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health.