Medical research in the news

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Acute flaccid myelitis: Cause of polio-like illness stumps doctors

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare but serious condition affecting the nervous system causing the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. While the condition or clinical manifestations of AFM are not new, the outbreak of cases that have been reported to the Center for Disease Control Prevention since 2014, when the agency began its surveillance for the condition, are new. "It's a clinical phenomenon that could be caused by a variety of causes," said Li, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology and Scientific Director of Translational Neuroscience Initiative at Wayne State University. Li was among the doctors in Michigan who helped solve the mysteries surrounding West Nile, during its earliest outbreak in New York City. It was his research that produced scientific evidence showing that West Nile patients had damage to the spinal cord. "
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To feel happier, we have to resolve to the life we evolved to live

As a psychiatrist specialized in anxiety and trauma, I often tell my patients and students that to understand how fear works in us, we have to see it in the context where it evolved. Ten thousand years ago, if another human frowned at us, chances were high one of us would be dead in a couple minutes. In the tribal life of our ancestors, if other tribe members did not like you, you would be dead, or exiled and dead.
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Blood markers suggest heart damage in amateur marathoners

Some of the same blood markers that spike following a heart attack also skyrocket in amateur long-distance runners, especially those who do a full marathon, researchers say. The small study in Spain tested non-professional runners before and after 10K, half-marathon and full-marathon races and found that a protein called troponin, which indicates damage to the heart muscle, surges to many times its normal level after a full marathon. It's not clear if this represents long-term damage, however, the study team writes in the journal Circulation. While deaths in long distance races are relatively rare, we shouldn't forget that the runner who sparked the marathon competitions, the Greek herald, Pheidippides, who in 490 BC ran a distance of about 26 miles from Marathon to Athens with the news of the victory his people had over the Persians died shortly after delivering that news, said Dr. James Glazier, a cardiologist at Detroit Medical Center and a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University, who wasn't involved in the study. The increase in troponin levels "suggests that marathons put quite a strain on the heart," Glazier said. "Other studies that looked at MRIs of the hearts of runners showed that they can become very enlarged after a race and we worry that with competitive running you might get some scarring of the heart and then maybe some rhythm problems."
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Improving Detroiters' health is focus of Wayne State summit

Residents of Wayne County are the unhealthiest of Michigan's 83 counties, according to a ranking by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bridging that disparity was the target of a Wednesday summit at Wayne State University. Participants suggested ways to promote healthy eating, behaviors and environments. But the focus was on disparities affecting Detroit’s population, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The university brought together leaders of corporations, health care systems,  community organizations, foundations, policymakers and academics.
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Mitovation sees path to commercialization

Mitovation has licensed three patents from Wayne State University and has built a prototype device designed to stop cell damage that occurs because of a lack of blood flow after heart attacks, something called post ischemia brain injury. The device looks like a small bike helmet, and it shoots infrared light through the skull and into the brain. Most of the damage occurs after a patient is resuscitated and the blood begins flowing again, a process known as reperfusion. The goal is to improve clinical outcomes of hospital patients who suffer heart attacks during their stay, shorten the length of their stay in intensive-care units and reduce long-term disability of those affected by brain injury in the wake of a cardiac arrest.
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Cardiosound wades into blood pressure monitoring

Turning a university research project into a for-profit company typically takes a veteran of the startup ecosystem, someone familiar with defining market opportunity and figuring out how to find customers in that market and make them pay for what you have. That was true for Cardiosound LLC, which formally launched in August. The company grew from efforts by Gaurav Kapur, a physician and associate professor of pediatrics at Wayne State, to find a better way to measure blood pressure, particularly in infants, where current methods are notoriously inaccurate. Kapur reached out to some colleagues at WSU — Sean Wu, a professor of mechanical engineering; Yong Xu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering; and William Lyman, a professor of pediatrics.

OPINION: Soon we may have nanobots in our bloodstream

In the next decade or two, the blood of people will very likely be full of tiny nanobots that will assist in preventing them from falling ill. When injected into our bodies, the nanobots will protect the physiological system on a molecular level to ensure a healthy and long life. Is this science fiction? No, not at all. The future is much closer than we may think. In the nanomedicine age different kinds of nanobots will increasingly be used as very accurate drug-delivery systems, cancer treatment tools or miniscule surgeons. A research team from Wayne State University has developed a nanobot that works in combination with chemo­therapeutic drugs that may reverse drug-resistance in renal cell carcinoma by releasing the payload selectively to the tissue and core of the tumor resulting in its inhibition. Successful trials with mice found their life expectancy more than doubled.
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Selfies are killing us: How they become a worldwide danger

Selfies have become a matter of life and death. New research identified 259 other deaths worldwide in the past six years related to selfies, of which more than a million are taken a day. In addition to dangerous selfie poses, experts also warn that posting selfies also may inadvertently expose people to other dangers: identity theft, cyber bullying and, for the selfies in bad taste, potential disqualification from school and work opportunities. Dr. David Rosenberg, the chair of the Wayne State University psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, said this technology certainly can be "a good servant" by enhancing quality of life, but it also tends to be a "cruel and crippling master." Still, not all news about selfies is bad, and the new selfie study offered a potential solution.
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NSF award to provide new insights on how drinking water and public health systems interact

A research team at Wayne State University recently received a four-year, $1.57 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its project, “Water and Health Infrastructure Resilience and Learning.” The award is part of a multi-institutional $2 million collaborative project funded under NSF’s Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes program.
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10 tips to fall asleep fast when nothing else works

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may be one of the 30 percent of adults who suffers from insomnia. According to James A. Rowley, a professor of internal medicine at Wayne State University, causes include stress at home and/or work, or a stressful life event such as the death of a loved one, an upcoming exam, or a big move. Other common reasons include an irregular sleep/wake pattern, excessive alcohol use, and drinking caffeinated beverages or smoking before bed.
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$1.54 million NIH grant to improve cardiac function in heart failure

With the help of a $1.54 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, a research team from Wayne State University will establish a targeted approach to sustain cardiac function during an energetic crisis and heart failure. Led by Jian-Ping Jin, M.D., Ph.D., professor and William D. Traitel Endowed Chair of Physiology in the School of Medicine at Wayne State, the research team has focused on the area of protein structure-function relationships, particularly on protein engineering to improve muscle and heart functions.