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Researchers Reduce Inflammation In Human Cells, A Major Cause Of Frailty

From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network (TNS)

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Chronic inflammation, closely associated with frailty and age-related diseases, is a hallmark of aging. Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered that inhibiting key enzyme pathways reduces inflammation in human cells in culture dishes and decreases inflammation and frailty in aged mice.

The results appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. While further studies are needed, researchers are hopeful that these findings will be a step toward treatments for frailty and other age-related chronic conditions.

In the study, researchers found that Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, drugs that work to block activity of JAK enzymes, decreased the factors released by human senescent cells in culture dishes. Senescent cells are cells that contribute to frailty and diseases associated with aging. Also, these same JAK inhibitors reduced inflammatory mediators in mice. Researchers examined aged mice, equivalent to 90-year-old people, before and after JAK inhibitors. Over the course of two months, the researchers found substantial improvement in the physical function of the aged mice, including grip strength, endurance and physical activity.

“One of the things we want to do is find some kind of treatment for this other than prescribing better wheelchairs or walkers, or other kinds of things that we are stuck with now that are Band-Aid solutions,” says Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and senior author of the study. A clinical geriatrician, Dr. Kirkland says he sees frailty in many of his elderly patients and that it’s often associated with poor outcomes and functional disability.

“Our goal is not necessarily to increase life span, and certainly not life span at all costs. Our goal is to enhance health span — the period during life when people are independent,” explains Dr. Kirkland. “This drug approach and others we are developing look like they might hold some promise in reaching that goal.”

©2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered that inhibiting key enzyme pathways reduces inflammation in human cells in culture dishes and decreases inflammation and frailty in aged mice. Researchers are hopeful that these findings will be a step toward treatments for frailty and other age-related chronic conditions. (Georg Drexel/Peter Atkins/Fotolia/TNS)

‘Get Moving!’ Exercise Can Relieve Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease

By Howard Cohen, Miami Herald (TNS)

MIAMI — Claire Hackett, a retired dietician, never saw herself as a “jock.”

But at 77, the Palmetto Bay, Fla., mother of seven is enrolled in a twice-weekly indoor cycling class at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center west of downtown Miami. She walks the treadmill and takes yoga classes at the Y and takes chair yoga and music therapy classes at her local park.

She’s got a new bag, too. A punching bag. “I’ve also taken up boxing,” Hackett said.

The origin of all this activity can be traced back seven years, when Hackett was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that affects about 1.5 million Americans, according to the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Parkinson’s, for which there currently is no cure, is characterized by the loss of dopamine neurons in the brain stem.

As Parkinson’s progresses, motor and non-motor skills may decline, leading to rigidity and gait disorders, tremor and cognitive loss. High-profile patients like former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno, singer Linda Ronstadt, actor Michael J. Fox, boxing champ Muhammad Ali and former Major League catcher Ben Petrick, who was diagnosed at 22, have put a face to the disease and promoted awareness.

Experts suggest Hackett is on to something with her burst of activity. Some recent studies, including by the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, published in 2008, found that patients with Parkinson’s showed a 35-percent decrease in symptoms after participating in a cycling program. A study in 2012, by researchers at Kent State University’s department of exercise science, also found that exercise and movement therapies benefited patients with Parkinson’s, but there remains little consensus on the optimal mode or intensity of exercise.

“All of this information that is coming in dovetails with what we, the establishment, are promoting with physical therapy or exercise as part of our daily recommendations to our patients,” said Dr. Carlos Singer, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

“Exercise is the hot topic in neurology and the neurology of Parkinson’s disease,” Singer said. “There is evidence coming in that it makes a difference in slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s, and it’s good physically and for cognitive ability — the ability to think clearly and for better memory.”

The doctor’s advice? Get moving.

“Exercise seems to release one of our natural proteins, which is called the growth factor, and the growth factor has an influence on making our brain neurons — the nerve cells — more fortified, with more vigorous connections. That’s one of the theories on why exercise may be working,” Singer said.

Given the medical community’s enthusiasm over the results so far, the National Parkinson’s Foundation partnered with UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center to create a Cycle for Parkinson’s class at the Miami medical venue. The program is free for patients and (space permitting) for their caregivers, funded by a $22,000 grant. Classes are 60 minutes apiece, twice weekly.

The class is held on stationary bikes. Unlike the Cleveland study, which used tandem bikes in which a patient and a captain are paired on a bike, with the captain generally setting the pace, UHealth’s Cycle for Parkinson’s class offers individual bikes, much like those found in a traditional gym’s class. Patients, guided by trainers, can proceed at their own pace or take a break.

Cycle for Parkinson’s launched with a three-month pilot program in January for about 15 patients and a handful of their caregivers.

The goal, said Brittany Dixson, the Wellness Center’s health fitness specialist: “Improve the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s. We saw improvements. These participants did pre- and post-testing, and they felt better, there were aerobic capacity improvements, some strength improvements. A lot of time with Parkinson’s, they feel alone or isolated, and a group setting gives an aspect of social benefits.”

Hackett, the Palmetto Bay mom, was one of the participants in the 10-week pilot and enrolled in the current program, which began in late June.

“Since I’ve had Parkinson’s, the exercise has helped my symptoms,” Hackett said. “I’m stronger, I have more energy. I’d have difficulties walking with Parkinson’s and fatigue, but the exercise definitely helps that.”

These days her husband, Bob, who does not have Parkinson’s, joins Hackett for classes. Her family is impressed with her exercise routine and the results, she said.

“They think it’s great, they really do. I never thought I’d be doing that. I do enjoy it. I can’t say it’s easy; it’s challenging.”

Photo: Angela Alvarado, a health coach instructor, right, helps Patricia Henning during a cycling class for individuals with Parkinson’s on Thursday, August 13, 2015. Studies say exercise proves beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. (Peter Andrew Bosch/Miami Herald/TNS)

Adult Diseases Now Striking Children Because Of Poor Diet And Obesity

By Megy Karydes, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Once seen only among an older population, adult diseases such as fatty liver disease, hypertension and osteoporosis are being diagnosed more and more in children. And you can add to that sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. The culprits? Unhealthy diets and growing waistlines, experts say.

Recognizing obesity early and appreciating the cardiovascular decline it can pose for young children has become so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics established guidelines and recommendations for pediatricians, typically not accustomed to seeing the resulting cascade of health issues in their patients.

“Several studies have shown that obesity is under recognized by parents as well as by physicians,” said Dr. Seema Kumar, pediatric endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “Parents in general tend to think they will outgrow it. … It also depends on the ethnic group they’re coming from. In some cultures, being overweight is actually a sign of prosperity. So they may actually not even consider that as a problem.”

Kumar’s observations ring true with a study by the New York University Langone Medical Center that was published online in April in the journal Childhood Obesity. While rates of childhood obesity have risen over the last several decades, the study showed, a vast majority of parents perceive their kids as “about the right weight.”

Dr. James J. Maciejko, a lipidologist and director of the Adult and Pediatric Lipid Clinics at St. John Hospital in Detroit, is concerned by how few Americans in general understand the grave dangers of overeating. Maciejko sees kids eating 3,000 calories a day and reminds them and their parents that young bodies cannot handle that load. In general, he said, pre-pubescent children should be consuming about 2,000 calories per day; if they are quite active, maybe 200 to 300 calories more. After puberty, most boys should consume about 2,000 calories a day and girls about 1,500 to 1,600 daily.

Why? Here’s the list:

Heart disease: With obesity comes the risk of cardiovascular disease. Developing risk factors in childhood can greatly increase the likelihood of heart disease in adulthood. For that reason, guidelines sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, recommend that all children be screened for high cholesterol at least once at ages 9 to 11 and again at 17 to 21.

These guidelines are meant to help health care practitioners prevent or identify those issues early to minimize more severe health issues later in life.

Diabetes: Overweight children can develop “adult-onset” diabetes, or Type 2, as young as age 8, and the CDC points out that the loss of insulin sensitivity can develop at any age, especially among overweight children.

The complications from diabetes are many: cardiovascular problems, damage to the nerves, kidneys, eyes and feet, and it can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Hypertension: “There are enough studies that have shown that … an overweight child is two to three times more likely to have high blood pressure compared to a child that is normal weight,” Kumar said. Hypertension can cause a range of health problems, from the heart to the brain to the kidneys.

Fatty liver: Maciejko said he is noticing more children being diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, or high fat levels in the blood. Part of the reason simply may be that doctors now are testing children for this.

The pediatrics association “now recommends all kids by the age of 9 have a lipid profile,” he noted. As a result, when kids come in for their wellness visit when they’re 9, 10 or 11, the pediatrician orders a cholesterol profile. “And so, because of that, we’re starting to identify cholesterol issues in kids,” he said.

“When a child (or adult) eats excessive amounts of calories (particularly from refined carbohydrates), the blood sugar rises,” he explained. “The liver attempts to reduce the blood-sugar level by taking sugar up from the bloodstream. The liver converts this extra sugar to glycogen and stores it. However, when the storage capacity of the liver is full, the extra sugar the liver takes out of the blood is converted to fatty acid and triglycerides. The fatty acid tends to accumulate in the liver, causing fatty liver disease (also called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH), while the triglycerides are deposited into the blood, raising the blood triglyceride level.”

Fatty liver disease can lead to depleted liver function, and the consequence of high triglycerides is cardiovascular disease, among other things.

Osteoporosis: Just as important as what kids are putting into their bodies is what they’re not. Eating disorders among very young children are contributing to the increase of osteoporosis, according to Dr. Ellen Rome, head of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Adolescent Medicine and professor of pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case.

“So many of the problems we see in adulthood have their roots in childhood,” Rome said. “A classic example is osteoporosis. That’s now seen as a pediatric disease.”

“If a kid from childhood isn’t getting three calcium or dairy servings a day with vitamin D, they can, in their early years, not be putting on the bone they’re supposed to have put on,” Rome said. By not depositing bone during those early years in life, when they’re supposed to be adding 40 to 60 percent of their bone mass, they’re increasing their risk of osteoporosis later in life. “That means that kid is way behind on what they should have been depositing in their “bone bank” by the time they are in their 20s. If they’re five to 10 times lower in their bone density, they’ve doubled or tripled their fracture risks.”

So those health issues all link to the diet problem. What can parents do?

Children’s diets should consist of healthy sources of protein such as low-fat dairy products, lean cuts of meat and eggs; fresh vegetables and fruit; and healthy beverages such as water and skim milk, according to Maciejko. He advises against excess starch such as pasta, potatoes and white bread, favoring whole-grain pasta, rye or whole-grain bread and vegetables as replacements. “Of course, the key to avoiding unhealthy weight gain is moderation in the consumption of food,” he noted, “even the healthiest food.”

Helping children develop healthy eating habits now is the key, the experts say, because the dire consequences are coming fast.

(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A new study suggests that adult diseases can strike children because of poor diet and obesity. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS)

Those Touched By Ebola Recount How Their Lives Have Changed

By Judy Wiley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas — Nina Pham came home still suffering from the after-effects of Ebola virus disease and found herself dealing with harsh, new realities — such as reporters hanging around outside her family’s house.

“Of course it was very crazy right after I came home, media camped outside my house and everything,” said Pham, who grew up in Fort Worth, in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “It’s just weird being normal and not seeking the celebrity and just kind of — very weird. It’s not natural to me.”

Pham, 26, was an intensive care nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas when she tested positive after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of the virus at Presbyterian on Oct. 8.

“Whenever I found out, he had just died three or four days prior,” she said. “I was the first person to contract it in the U.S. I thought, what’s going to happen? There’s no proven treatment, so we have limited resources — it was very scary, not knowing.”

After Duncan’s diagnosis on Sept. 30, Ebola began its burn into the public consciousness, fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and a deluge of stories that ranged from repetitious to useful.

So most people knew about the virus by Oct. 12, when Pham tested positive. In fact, “What is Ebola?” was the top search on Google for 2014.

Well-wishers lined up to waved good-bye to the young nurse as an ambulance carried her to Love Field for the flight to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., where she ultimately recovered. Her release from the hospital on Oct. 24 was covered live by the major TV networks and later that day she met with President Barack Obama in the White House before returning to North Texas.

Pham lost most of her belongings in the rush of fear and the abundance of caution that followed her diagnosis. A hazmat crew packed nearly all the contents of her Dallas apartment into blue barrels and took them away to be incinerated. Realizing a dog in Spain had been euthanized after its owner contracted Ebola, she insisted her dog, Bentley, be kept alive.

The Cavaliar King Charles Spaniel was quarantined and tested for Ebola while Pham was being treated.

“I don’t think I could have lived with myself if something happened to Bentley and not me,” she said.

He’s become a little media hound, tweeted around the world and recently part of helping a good cause.

“I’m trying to use my voice for positive things,” Pham said. “The other day Bentley and I presented a check to Dallas Animal Services. They were very instrumental in helping Bentley.”

She plans to attend a veterinary conference next month to speak about Ebola and animals.

Beyond that, Pham is still weighing her options for the future. She said she has good days and bad days physically, and still suffers from fatigue, so she isn’t ready to return to the pressures and 12-hour shifts of the ICU.

“Right now it’s a little too soon, I’m trying to focus on my health,” she said.

And she’s considering other avenues as well. She said whatever she does will probably having to do with involve nursing or with helping people, “perhaps pursuing a graduate degree or something in advocacy. There are a lot of options out there. I want to see what I can do to help people in the biggest way.”

The new ability to help in a larger sense than before also drives Dr. Kent Brantly, the Fort Worth-trained doctor who contracted Ebola while caring for patients on a mission for the Samaritan’s Purse, an international charity.

Like Pham, Brantly, 33, of Fort Worth was wrenched from obscurity onto the cover of Time magazine, which honored “the Ebola fighters” collectively as Person of the Year. Both their stories were included, and Brantly’s portrait was on one of the five covers.

He is not doctoring for now, but instead spreading the message of Ebola’s continued lethal march through West Africa, and helping Samaritan’s Purse chart the course ahead for fighting the disease.

The death toll from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — the West African countries most affected — stood at 7,693, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Total deaths in the U.S. stood at seven, and eight people had died in Nigeria.

“Right now, I feel like the best role I can play in fighting Ebola is to stand here and be a voice for the people of West Africa who have no voice here,” Brantly said at a Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting Dec. 9, which was declared “Dr. Kent Brantly Day.”

Amber Vinson, a second young nurse who contracted Ebola virus from Duncan, also survived and the last time she surfaced publicly, said she is happily continuing with her plans to marry.

Presbyterian Hospital was not left unscathed. A series of missteps in the way Duncan’s diagnosis was handled left the hospital and its parent company, Texas Health Resources of Fort Worth, with a lot of explaining to do. But the ordeal ultimately ended in a settlement with Duncan’s family designed to help Ebola victims in West Africa.

Other area hospitals benefited from Dallas’s experience.

“Ebola’s arrival in North Texas strengthened and broadened our internal response knowledge for how to protect our employees while also providing care to victims of a possible pandemic,” said Robert Earley, president and CEO of JPS Health Network in Fort Worth.

Another life forever changed by the crisis in North Texas was that of Louise Troh, the woman Duncan came to the U.S. to marry.

One day she was a woman looking forward to starting anew with the man she loved, and a few days later she had become a pariah struggling to find a place to live. Nobody wanted anything to do with people who had been exposed to Ebola, regardless of whether they were symptomatic or diagnosed.

Ultimately, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas took in Troh, her son and two nephews at its Conference and Formation Center in Oak Cliff. She confronted the same problem even after she and other relatives completed a quarantine period at the center, and finally moved into a condo purchased by members of the Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.

Troh reportedly has a book deal to write her story — she has said it will be a love story about growing up in Liberia, meeting Duncan at a refugee camp in Ivory Coast and the events that followed.

AFP Photo/Alex Wong