Body

How do blood vessel cells understand that they should organise themselves in tubes and not in layers? A research group from Uppsala University shows for the first time that a special type of "instructor" molecule is needed to accomplish this. These findings, published in the scientific journal Blood, might be an important step towards using stem cells to build new organs.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Cells become cancerous mainly because they lose control of their growth. To better understand how this happens, a new study at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center looks at four genes that help regulate cell growth in embryos and that contribute to cancer in adults.

Children who are physically or sexually abused are more than twice as likely to have asthma as their peers, according to a recent study of urban children in Puerto Rico. In fact, physical and sexual abuse was second only to maternal asthma in all the risk factors tested, including paternal asthma and indicators of socioeconomic status.

There is a strong link between obesity and asthma and as the prevalence of both conditions has been increasing steadily, epidemiologists have speculated that there is an underlying condition that connects the two. But one long-suspected link, the systemic inflammation associated with obesity, has been ruled out by a recent New Zealand study that found no evidence of its involvement.

The widely-held perception that the influenza vaccination reduces overall mortality risk in the elderly does not withstand careful scrutiny, according to researchers in Alberta. The vaccine does confer protection against specific strains of influenza, but its overall benefit appears to have been exaggerated by a number of observational studies that found a very large reduction in all-cause mortality among elderly patients who had been vaccinated.

Alexandria, Va. - The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) will issue the first comprehensive clinical guidelines to help health care practitioners identify patients with cerumen (commonly referred to as earwax) impaction. The guidelines emphasize evidence-based management of cerumen impaction by clinicians, and inform patients of the purpose of ear wax in hearing health.

PHILADELPHIA – Radiation from the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, likely rearranged chromosomes in some survivors who later developed papillary thyroid cancer as adults, according to Japanese researchers.

Scientists based in Switzerland and South Africa have created a biophysical methodology that may help to overcome hearing deficits, and potentially remedy even substantial hearing loss. The authors propose a method of retuning functioning regions of the ear to recognize frequencies originally associated with damaged areas. Details are published August 29th in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

All drugs used to treat psychosis are linked to an increased risk of stroke, and dementia sufferers are at double the risk, according to a study published on bmj.com today.

Previous research has shown that second generation (atypical) antipsychotic drugs can increase the chances of patients having a stroke. But the risk of stroke associated with first generation (typical) antipsychotics, and whether the risk differs in people with and without dementia, is not known.

Last week the government in England closed its consultation on the effectiveness of vascular checks for high-risk individuals aged 40-74, to be rolled out in 2009-10, but will this strategy be worthwhile? Experts debate the issue on bmj.com today.

The Department of Health suggests that up to 9 500 heart attacks and strokes and 2 000 deaths could be prevented each year by vascular screening and managing high-risk individuals aged 40-74 in England.