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(AP Photo/Richard Lewis)

CBSNEWS.COM, March 10, 2009 — With President Obama’s announcement that he is reversing former President George W. Bush’s restrictions on federally-funded embryonic stem cell research, we decided to take a look at CBS News polling on the topic and found the Americans have generally shown their support for the research.

In 2007, the last time CBS News asked the question, 65 percent said they approved of “medical research using embryonic stem cells” compared to 25 percent who disapproved. At the time, 74 percent of Democrats approved as did 54 percent of Republicans.

When CBS News first asked about medical research using embryonic stem cells in 2004, 50 percent approved of the idea. Support for it has been on the rise since then with 56 percent approving in 2005 and 59 percent in 2006.

However, it should be noted that a recent Gallup poll comes at the question a different way — specifically asking about the issue of government-funded research. In a poll last month, 52 percent said they support fewer or no restrictions on federally-funded research and 41 percent they support keeping the same restrictions or not funding the research at all. Those figures were a dip from a 2007 Gallup poll in which 60 percent of Americans said they supported fewer or no restrictions on federally-funded research.

Jennifer De Pinto, manager of election and survey information for CBS News, contributed to this post.

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GoogleNews.com, February 27, 2009 — By now, most people have read stories about how to “grow your own organs” using stem cells is just a breakthrough away. Despite the hype, this breakthrough has been elusive.

A new report brings bioengineered organs a step closer, as scientists from Stanford and New York University Langone Medical Center describe how they were able to use a “scaffolding” material extracted from the groin area of mice on which stem cells from blood, fat, and bone marrow grew. This advance clears two major hurdles to bioengineered replacement organs, namely a matrix on which stem cells can form a 3-dimensional organ and transplant rejection.

“The ability to provide stem cells with a scaffold to grow and differentiate into mature cells could revolutionize the field of organ transplantation,” said Geoffrey Gurtner, M.D., Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford University and a senior researcher involved in the work.

To make this advance, Gurtner and colleagues first had to demonstrate that expendable pieces of tissue (called “free flaps”) could be sustained in the laboratory. To do this, they harvested a piece of tissue containing blood vessels, fat, and skin from the groin area of rats and used a bioreactor to provide nutrients and oxygen to keep it alive. Then, they seeded the extracted tissue with stem cells before it was implanted back into the animal.

Once the tissue was back in the mice, the stem cells continued to grow on their own and the implant was not rejected. This suggests that if the stem cells had been coaxed into becoming an organ, the organ would have “taken hold” in the animal’s body. In addition to engineering the stem cells to form a specific organ around the extracted tissue, they also could be engineered to express specific proteins which allows for even greater potential uses of this technology.

“Myth has its lures, but so does modern science. The notion of using one tissue as the scaffold for another is as old as the Birth of Venus to the Book of Genesis,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Eve may or may not have been formed from Adam’s rib, but these experiments show exactly how stem cell techniques can be used to turn one’s own tissue into newly-formed, architecturally-sound organs.”

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2009, February 26). From Stem Cells To New Organs: Scientists Cross Threshold In Regenerative Medicine

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Memo to Accompany Stem Cell Action

Washington Post, March 9, 2009, by Rob Stein — When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research today, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said yesterday.

“The president believes that it’s particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals,” Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday.

Although officials would not go into details, the memorandum will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy to “assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public,” said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for stem cell research has been seen by critics as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions across an array of issues, including climate change and whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales.

“We view what happened with stem cell research in the last administration as one manifestation of failure to think carefully about how federal support of science and the use of scientific advice occurs,” Varmus said. “This is consistent with the president’s determination to use sound scientific practice, responsible practice of science and evidence, instead of dogma in developing federal policy.”

The memorandum will ensure that “people who are appointed to federal positions in science have strong credentials and that the vetting process for evaluating scientific information doesn’t lead to any undermining of the scientific opinion,” he said.

The stem cell executive order will overturn a restriction Bush put in place on Aug. 9, 2001, limiting federal funding to what turned out to be 21 cell lines already in existence on that date.

Because of their ability to become any type of cell in the body, many scientists believe human embryonic stem cells could lead to new therapies for many diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and paralysis. But the research is highly controversial because the cells are obtained by destroying embryos, which some consider to be immoral.

On Friday, officials confirmed that Obama would fulfill a longtime promise to lift those restrictions today, thrilling supporters but stirring intense criticism from opponents, who argue that there are alternative approaches free from ethical concerns.

As supporters had hoped, Obama’s order will come without any caveats and leave the details to be worked out by the National Institutes of Health, which will have 120 days to develop guidelines that will be used to vet requests for federal funding for research. The guidelines will address a host of thorny ethical issues raised by such research, such as how to obtain proper consent from donors of embryos used to obtain the cells.

“As a result of lifting those limitations, the president is in effect allowing federal funding of embryonic stem research to the extent it’s permitted by federal law — that is work with stem cells themselves, not the derivation of those stem cells,” Varmus said.

Obama does not intend to call for the repeal of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to conduct research on embryos directly.

“Congress will have to make a determination about how they want to deal with that,” Barnes said.

CNN.com, March 10, 2009, by Elizabeth Landau — Headaches, big and small, are among the most common health complaints. Almost 90 percent of women and about 70 percent of men get tension headaches, the Mayo Clinic says. Yet doctors still don’t know much about what causes them.

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About 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States report having migraines.

About 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States report having migraines.

In a new large-scale study published in the journal Neurology this week, researchers found that higher temperatures and, to a lesser extent, low air pressure, influence severe headaches.

But researchers aren’t sure how temperature influences headaches, and others say that a slew of other factors could be involved in the connection.

“I think it’s more complicated than that,” said Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who was not involved in the study. Temperature and pressure may be indirect evidence of other causal factors.

The study looked at more than 7,000 patients who had come to the emergency room of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, between May 2000 and December 2007, all of whom were discharged with a primary diagnosis of some kind of headache. About 75 percent of these patients were women.

Researchers compared environmental factors such as temperature, air pollution and barometric pressure on the day of the patient’s visit with a day the week before and a day the week after. They found that the risk of severe headache increases about 7.5 percent for each temperature increment of 5 degrees Celsius (about 9 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Fairly consistently, it was warmer on the days that individuals came in than on control days before and afterwards,” said Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, lead author and physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

But as to why temperature is connected to headaches, Mukamal said researchers aren’t sure. The physiological connection is not well understood, he said.

But Saper said a lot of things happen on hot days that may influence headaches — for instance, leaving an air-conditioned car to walk outside on a warm day, or being physically active and sweating a lot. It’s not clear that temperature itself is the direct link, he said.

“There’s no evidence that there’s more headaches in hot climates than in cold climates,” Saper said. “There are no more headaches in Miami Beach than they are in Boston.”

On the other hand, the idea that high temperatures and low pressure are linked to headaches is well known. On a hot day, a person may become dehydrated, which leads to a headache, said Dr. Stephen Silberstein, professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study.

About 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States report having migraines, the authors said. Experts estimate that the cost of migraines in America is about $17 billion.

While the study found a weaker link between air pressure and headaches, Silberstein said a person going up to a mountain — where the pressure is lower — will have a greater chance of getting a headache.

Curiously, the study did not find any association between pollution and headaches, which is surprising given that pollution causes sinus problems, which lead to headaches, Silberstein said.

Researchers in the new study still do not rule out pollution as a factor, Mukamal said.

Migraines, unlike other headaches, are a specific type of chronic headache syndrome. The condition runs in families and is more common among women, Mukamal said. Menstrual cycles and other hormonal factors can influence migraines.

Doctors will sometimes ask migraine patients to keep diaries to see what might influence the headaches and determine how often they occur. They help both doctors and patients track progress, monitoring whether the migraines become less frequent over time, Silberstein said.

Diet can also influence migraines, Silberstein said. Starvation, alcohol and caffeine withdrawal are all important triggers.

Going to sleep at the same time every night and having time to relax are helpful for migraine patients, Silberstein said. He also noted the importance of the environment in physical health and the implications that global warming could have on headaches.

The next step in headache research is to figure out if there are medications that could block the triggering effect of environmental factors on headaches, Mukamal said.

“This highlights the fact that there are very clear clinical consequences to the environment and they don’t just affect the old, and the sick, or kids,” Mukamal said. “Even garden variety common problems, like migraines and headaches, which affect the whole range of the population, can clearly measurably be influenced by the environment.”

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The New York Times, March 10, 2009, by Anahad O’Connor — Daylight saving time, which began this week in most of the United States, has long been promoted as a way to save energy. Whether it does is still a matter of debate. But it does seem clear from studies that a one-hour time adjustment can have unintended health consequences.

It seems that when the clock is moved forward or back one hour, the body’s internal clock — its circadian rhythm, which uses daylight to stay in tune with its environment — does not adjust. In a study of 55,000 people, for example, scientists found that on days off from work, subjects tended to sleep on standard time, not daylight time: their waking hour followed the seasonal progression of dawn.

In other studies, scientists tracked large groups of people for eight weeks at a time as they made the transitions to daylight time in spring and to standard time in autumn. They found that in spring, people’s peak activity levels were more in tune with their body clock than with the actual clock. Studies suggest that this disconnect between body time and clock time can result in restlessness, sleep disruption and shorter sleep duration. Other studies have suggested links between time change and increases in heart attacks, suicides and accidents, though scientists say more study is needed.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Daylight saving time is associated with sleep disruptions and possibly more serious consequences.

Reuters Life, March 10, 2009 – Brain surgery for weight loss?

West Virginia mother of two Carol Poe, 60, is only the second person in the United States to undergo deep brain stimulation for weight loss after trying everything from diets to having her stomach stapled.

Last month, she took part in a clinical trial at West Virginia University hospital in which neurosurgeons drilled into her brain and used electricity to control her feelings of hunger and satisfaction.

Poe’s story will be told on ABC Television’s “Nightline” program on Monday, March 9.

Poe, 5 ft 2 in and who weighed 230 pounds before the surgery, said that at her heaviest she weighed about 490 pounds.

Dr Julian Bailes, chairman of West Virginia University’s department of neurosurgery, said Poe was a good candidate for the radical treatment.

“This is not for overweight patients. It’s for obese patients,” Bailes told “Nightline.”

“This is a frontier of medicine…to be able to generate tiny pulses of electricity in these deep nuclei of the brain, and to see what effect they may have on behavior, including in this case the behavior of eating and the issue of uncontrolled appetite,” he said.

Bailes told Reuters that the West Virginia University hospital was the only one in the United States, and the only center he knew of worldwide, using the deep brain stimulation technique specifically on obese patients.

He said the first patient underwent surgery in November 2008. The second, Poe, took place in February. Both are part of a clinical trial, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, conducted by fellow neurosurgeons Michael Oh and Donald Whiting.

Poe was awake during the three-hour surgery, in which wires carrying an electrical impulse were inserted into her brain in the region where the stomach is controlled, and linked to two pacemaker devices implanted in her chest.

The voltage going into her brain is turned up slowly over future months to give Poe the sensation of feeling full.

“We hope her sensation is a sensation of satiety, a sensation of fullness, a lack of compulsion to consume excess calories,” Bailes told “Nightline”. “And a sensation again of satisfaction, of not having the feeling we need to eat some more when we know we don’t.”

Doctors said it would be several months before any weight loss is noticeable while the voltage to the brain is gradually increased. But a week after the voltage was turned on, Poe told “Nightline” she had already lost three pounds.

“When I eat, I get full faster. I just don’t have the cravings like I used to have,” she said.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

By Catherine Schwanke

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Matt McGee (CC Licensed)

The sunshine vitamin is looking brighter. This past week, scientists have found vitamin D can do more than form and maintain strong bones. According to new research, it may prevent diabetes, inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and reduce the risk of children developing multiple sclerosis later in life. In addition, the vitamin has been linked to more muscle power in teen girls. With all these added benefits, looks like it’s time to load up on some D.

According to researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, getting the recommended dose of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and could prevent complications for those who are already diagnosed with the disease. In the study, the researches look at 3,000 people with type 1 diabetes and found a lower risk in disease of those who took D supplements.

In another study, a researcher from the New Jersey Medical School found D can stimulate a protein in the body, which in turn, can hinder the growth of breast cancer cells. And this is not the first study to link D with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Previous studies have linked vitamin D with a better diagnosis in patients with breast cancer.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of British Columbia have linked vitamin D with a genetic variant that influences the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that results in the loss of myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The findings reveal D deficiency during pregnancy and childhood could increase the risk of developing MS down the road. While the causes of MS remain unknown, researchers believe a lack of vitamin D in early life may prevent the thymus from killing cells which eventually attack the body and eliminate the protective myelin sheath.

Finally, another set of research coming out of the UK adds to the list of D benefits. Scientists at the University of Manchester found that girls ages 12 to 14 with elevated vitamin D levels were able to jump higher and faster with more power and force. According to the researchers, with the added muscle advantage, D is looking like more of a super nutrient.

Unfortunately, getting the recommended amount of D is not so easy. “There are not a lot of natural food sources,” says Katherine Zeratsky, a dietician with Mayo Clinic. Fish such as salmon and tuna along with dairy products like cheese contain some of the vitamin, but mostly we receive it through fortified food like milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt and margarine. “We are meant to get vitamin D from the sun,” says Zeratsky. But with limited amounts of food sources and the threat of cancer through prolonged UV radiation (sunscreens limit the amount of D the body can absorb), many people are not getting enough.

Exactly how much D should you be getting? According to Zeratsky, the dosing is controversial. The current Institute of Medicine recommendation is 200 International Units (IU) for adults and 400 IU for children, but some dieticians believe adults could benefit from more than the recommended 200 IUs.

Many people suffer from subclinical deficiency, meaning there are no obvious symptoms signaling an insufficient amount of the vitamin. So, to make sure you are getting enough D, Zeratsky recommends taking a multivitamin, especially people living in cloudy climates or those who religiously wear sunscreen. “We need more research to decide what the optimal level of vitamin D really is, but in general, a multivitamin is a good idea as a safety net in addition to dietary sources,” says Zeratsky. Overdosing on vitamin D is possible, but not likely. According to the Institute of Medicine, the upper limit for intake is 2000 IUs. Still, if deciding to take a supplement, it is always best to consult a doctor.