• Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers at Harvard Medical School have published a study that, they suggest, shows it might be possible to reverse one sign of aging in mice.The potential to reverse aging is a bold claim to make, one that conjures the fabled Fountain of Youth and inspires a significant amount of medical research today. The researchers in this study focused on something that happens in the circulatory system: the changes that take place in blood vessels.As we grow older we become less able to grow new blood vessels in our muscles. This reduces our ability to undergo endurance exercise and is associated with frailty (the weakness and fragility some elderly people suffer). Similar changes also occur in other mammals, such as mice.Scientists think changes to our blood vessels might underlie many of the health conditions associated with aging. They suggest that as these blood vessels reduce in number, sufficient amounts of blood are unable to reach vital organs, potentially giving rise to health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and dementia.The researchers in this study identified a gene in mice that is associated with the growth of new blood vessels. By manipulating the activity of the mice’s DNA, they were able to either block or increase the effects of this gene.They found that mice whose gene activity had been blocked were less likely to grow new blood vessels in their muscles compared to normal mice, the same finding that occurs as we become older.Previous research had shown that increasing this gene's activity could prolong mice’s lifespan. But a crucial point: This prior research was limited in its significance. It is not possible to edit the DNA of humans in the same way as is done for mice in a research setting.However, in this study, the researchers identified a chemical compound that could indirectly stimulate the gene. The chemical was given to a group of 18-month-old mice -- the approximate equivalent of a 70-year-old human -- in their drinking water for a period of two months.During this period, the researchers measured how far the mice could run on a treadmill before becoming exhausted. The drug increased the mice’s endurance by over 56 percent after two months and increased their muscle blood vessel growth to a level seen in younger mice.The chemical had no effect on younger sedentary mice, however, suggesting that its effect is unique to the process of aging, rather than boosting health generally.Reports have suggested that this might someday lead to a new drug for human use. One of the authors of the study, David Sinclair, commented that the research “sets the stage for therapies in humans to address the spectrum of diseases that arise from vascular aging.”However, this is still years off. Although mouse studies are commonly used to understand how our bodies work, there is no guarantee that the chemical will have a similar effect in humans. There is also no guarantee that this chemical would even be safe in humans. The time taken to develop a drug for clinical use after an animal study such as this one is typically over 10 years, so don’t expect a prescription from your doctor anytime soon.The research was published in the journal Cell.
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  • University Hospitals(CLEVELAND) -- University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, said Monday that it miscalculated its initial estimates of eggs and embryos affected by a rare storage tank malfunction.In a letter to patients, University Hospitals CEO Tom Zenty said that the "catastrophic failure" that occurred between during the weekend of March 3 to March 4 affected more than twice the amount first estimated.He wrote in the letter, "We have determined that the total number of affected eggs and embryos for these patients is more than 4,000, not the estimate of 2,000 previously used.""We are heartbroken to tell you that it's unlikely any are viable," he added.The CEO also made a plea in a recorded statement posted on Tuesday that apologized for the lapse, saying, "We know we made mistakes.""We had a terrible situation at our fertility clinic where eggs and embryos were jeopardized by a temperature fluctuation in one of our cryostorage tanks," he said. "My thoughts and heart immediately went out to our patients. This was overwhelming news for them, women and men who counted on us."Coincidentally, ABC News was first to report that on the very same day University Hospitals suffered a storage tank failure, Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco experienced similar temperature fluctuations with its own inventory of egg and embryo assets.At the time, Dr. Carl Herbert, president and medical director at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, told ABC News that in his 35 years of cryopreservation it is an "an unusual event" where two clinics and two liquid nitrogen storage tanks where the tissues are stored "failed."Both the Cleveland and San Francisco clinics have each been hit with separate class-action lawsuits, ABC News reported.“You put so much faith into the physicians and the medical team and, like I said, to have this taken away -- your hopes and dreams destroyed. It’s a tremendous loss,” Amber Ash, one woman who, along with her husband, Elliott, is suing University Hospitals Fertility Center, told ABC affiliate WEWS.Zenty explained in the letter that several issues led to the storage tank failure.He noted that the remote alarm system on the tank that is meant to keep tabs of any kind of "temperature swings" was off."We don't know when the remote alarm was turned off, but it remained off through that weekend, so an alert wasn't sent to our employee as the tank temperature began to rise on Saturday night, when the lab wasn't staffed," he wrote.Zenty admitted that it's unclear who turned the alert system off and that "we are still seeking those answers."Also, Zenty wrote in the letter that the failed tank "needed preventative maintenance" because the function that automatically adds liquid nitrogen to the tank to keep the specimens frozen had been experiencing difficulties for several weeks prior to the tank's failure.Employees were manually filling the tank because of the issues with the autofill function, but the levels of nitrogen that "were monitored and appeared to be appropriate on Friday and Saturday" likely were insufficient, Zenty said.The investigation is continuing, Zenty said.The clinic, Zenty said in the recorded statement, has been working with outside experts, as well as cooperating with the Ohio Department of Health and also the College of American Pathologists to "assess and investigate the situation."He wrote that he hopes these efforts will help regain the public's confidence in the clinic going forward."We know many families want and need the fertility services we provide," he said. "And we're committed to making the changes that will allow them to turn to us again with confidence."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Elvis once said, “Rhythm is something you either have or don't have." But where does it come from?A new study suggests that Elvis and everyone with rhythm may have gotten it from their moms.The experience of singing to a baby is universal, across languages, cultures and time -- especially well-loved lullabies. Canadian researchers took a look at the relationship between mothers and babies during lullabies.“We know lullabies work with babies,” Lauren Cirelli, the primary author, said. But she wanted to know, “how our parents shape that experience.”In this cross sectional study, 30 mothers were asked to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to their children in two moods: “playful” and “soothing.”For the study, moms sang to their babies up to 10 times. Baby brain arousal was measured via devices placed on the skin that are similar to a polygraph and measure sweat gland activity.Cirelli explained that sweat is an indicator of mood because “when we are excited, levels increase” and “when we are calm, they decrease.”Increased stress leads to increased sweat gland activity and higher skin conductance levels. Calm states mean decreased sweat gland activity and decreased skin conductance.The authors also monitored baby behavior during the singing.During soothing versions of the song, moms sang more slowly and at a lower pitch, the researchers found. This was less arousing for both moms and babies and that decrease was “correlated," meaning that mom's and baby's response were synced.During playful versions, moms sang more quickly and with a higher pitch; arousal levels for both were stable. Both infant attention to mom and babies’ overall happiness ratings -- determined by facial expression, such as smiling -- increased.“Infant brains must be able to track auditory events to make sense of music,” the author said.She suggests that early exposure to music may help babies develop rhythm perception which may facilitate engagement in both social and emotional settings. Cirelli says, “music is a tool that we can use to bring people together, and this starts in infancy.”She suggested a playlist based on rhythmic qualities, saying that "lullabies may be used to soothe” and “play songs for entertainment and getting attention.”Lullabies“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”“You Are My Sunshine”“Rock-a-bye-baby”“Hush Little Baby”“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”Playful“Itsy Bitsy Spider”“The Wheels On the Bus”“If You’re Happy and You Know It”“Old MacDonald”“Zoom Zoom Zoom”The study is limited in some ways. The research was reported this week as part of a meeting presentation and hasn't been published at this time in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Additionally, this is a small study including only 30 pairs of moms and babies. The author plans to open a baby lab and continue researching this field.Dr. Joseph Cafone is a fourth-year internal medicine and pediatrics resident working in the ABC News Medical Unit.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research presented this week is looking at cervical cancer screening and whether the guidelines, which recommend against testing women over 65, may need a refresh.It's a feeling with which some cervical cancer survivors agree."I talk to friends and tell them to get screened. I have a friend whose doctor very adamantly said she doesn’t need to worry about it," Barbara Wiley, 72, of Louisville, Kentucky, said. "I tell her, if my cancer hadn’t been caught by the time I was 70, I might not be around right now to enjoy everything I have, like time with my grandkids."Current guidelines say that women between 21 and 65 years of age should be tested for cervical cancer, whether by pap smear or human papilloma virus (HPV) testing -- since the HPV virus is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The recommendation was set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which works to improve the health of Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about preventive treatments and testing.This is their “Grade A” recommendation, meaning “there is high certainty that the net benefit is substantial.”Practicing doctors tend to take their advice, also because their stamp of approval means that the cost for testing must be covered by health insurance.For women under 21 and over 65, they "discourage the use of this service" for clinical practice. This means the USPSTF believes the net benefit does not outweigh the harms of testing —- so cervical cancer tests for women over 65 have earned a “Grade D” recommendation.The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alabama, however, just presented new research with a different view. At the 49th Society for Gynecologic Oncology Annual Meeting in New Orleans this week, they suggested rethinking the guidelines."What is interesting is that even though incidence rates are going down, we found that the absolute number of cancer cases is not significantly decreasing in women who are age 65 or over. We hypothesize that this is because the overall number of women in this age group is increasing," study author Dr. Sarah Dilley, a gynecologic oncology fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said.The researchers looked at data on cervical cancer diagnoses from two highly-respected cancer registries—SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) and NCDB (National Cancer Database).According to SEER, cervical cancer cases have declined from 2000-2014 in people between 20-49, as well as those over 75. But, alarmingly, about 20 percent of 10,000 cases were in women over 65—that’s about 1 in every 5 cervical cancer diagnoses.The NCDB data from 2004-2014 is similar: 19 percent of about 20,000 cervical cancer cases were in women over 65. And the cases in those over 65 were fairly evenly distributed across ethnicities. The highest proportion were seen in African Americans, roughly 22 percent, but other ethnic groups were not far behind —- about 20 percent in whites, 14 percent in Hispanics and 21 percent in “other” ethnic groups.The authors are suggesting that the USPSTF and other professional societies reconsider screening age limits, because it could potentially improve outcomes —- and save lives in an expanding age group."As life expectancy increases, this is a population that is growing," Dilley said. "Extending screening may help improve this and should certainly be considered. But I think that additional research and thought will need to be put into this issue before that recommendation can officially be made."Dr. Najibah Rehman, MD, MPH, is a third-year preventive medicine resident at the University of Michigan working in the ABC News Medical Unit.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has revealed that health care providers may be failing to routinely offer the HPV vaccine to boys, potentially putting them at risk of cancer later in life.
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  • Yvonne Huggins(MILWAUKEE) -- When Zanyah Brown was 2 years old, her mother noticed that something wasn't right."It went from her having cold symptoms -- just runny nose, small fevers -- just not wanting to eat, things like that, to her actually being in severe pain," said Yvonne Huggins of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "It was very scary."Medical tests later revealed in 2015 that Brown had a rare liver condition, and she would require a liver transplant. At first, Huggins told ABC News recently, she did not have much hope."I'm not going to lie," the mom said. "My first thought was, 'God, this is going to take forever for her to get a liver.'"Brown was put on the transplant list in July 2017.In November 2017, Kristian Vaughn, a 27-year-old stranger, was determined to be a perfect match for the now 4-year-old.Vaughn had gotten tested after learning that a family friend's son needed a liver transplant. He was a match but the child ended up getting a liver from another donor.Vaughn then asked whether another child was in need of a transplant. The hospital alerted him to Brown, and they were ultimately matched.The two met on Dec. 11, the night before the surgery. Only 30 percent of his liver was removed, but his partial piece of liver constituted a full liver transplant for Brown.Their surgeons at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin ran back and forth through tunnels connecting the two medical facilities."It was the right thing to do," Vaughn said about his decision to donate. "All I had to do was hit the pause button on my life... for 8 weeks and then this child could just open a brand new chapter in her life because I was willing to donate and when I had that realization, I just knew that this was really, truly, the right thing to do."Brown and Vaughn also met in March, three months after the surgery. Vaughn said he'd been told by doctors that his results were perfect and that his liver had achieved full function."Right there in front of me, that little girl was what life is about. It's about that joy. It's about that happiness," he said. "I feel very much privileged to have been able to be a part of all this."Brown is doing well, and she's home from the hospital. The two continue to be in touch."Kristian was a blessing," Huggins said. "He changed Zanyah’s life completely."
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