Ann Conkle
Mar 23, 2012

Medical Nova Weekly: Top five trends for 3/19-3/23

Here's your weekly collection of medical stories making headlines this week!

Immunofluorescence microscopy image of the induced neural stem cellsSomatic stem cells obtained from skin cells for first time

Scientists have produced somatic stem cells from fully differentiated skin cells. Stem cell researcher Hans Schöler and his team took skin cells from mice and, using a unique combination of growth factors and culturing conditions, managed to induce the cells' differentiation into neuronal stem cells. "Our research shows that reprogramming somatic cells does not require passing through a pluripotent stage," explains Schöler. "Thanks to this new approach, tissue regeneration is becoming a more streamlined -- and safer -- process."


Aspirin has been shown to reduce cancer risk.An aspirin a day for cancer?

Aspirin may soon have a new role. Scientists from The City College of New York have developed a new aspirin compound that has great promise to be an extremely potent cancer-fighter. The new designer aspirin curbed the growth of 11 different types of human cancer cells, including colon, pancreatic, lung, prostate, breast, and leukemia, in culture without harming normal cells, reported a paper published this month in Medicinal Chemistry Letters.


A new blood test could predict heart attackNew blood test may predict heart attacks

A research study led by Scripps Translational Science Institute shows that a new blood test may be useful for predicting the possibility of an imminent heart attack. The study concludes that circulating endothelial cells (CEC) from heart attack patients were large and misshapen, often appearing with multiple nuclei. This indicates that CECs are possible biomarkers for predicting acute arterial plaque rupture.There is hope that this test would be developed for commercial use in the next year or two.


Images showing substantial reduction in functional connectivity after ECT.Unlocking how electroconvulsive therapy works is changing our understanding of depression

Although it's been effectively treating depression for 70 years, the mechanism behind electroconvulsive therapy has never been understood -- until now. Through use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and complex mathematical analysis, researchers at Aberdeen University were able to pinpoint how the twenty-five thousand different areas of the brain communicate. The studies revealed that ECT appears to 'turn down' an overactive connection between areas of the brain that control mood and the portions responsible for thinking and concentrating. This decrease in connectivity was accompanied by a significant improvement in patients’ depressive symptoms.


Pregnancy is safe after breast cancer.Pregnancy is safe for women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer

New research shows, for the first time, that it is safe for women who have been diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer to be pregnant, despite doctors' previous fears that pregnancy could boost levels of estrogen in the body and cause the cancer to return. In fact, the findings, presented this week at the eighth European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC-8) in Vienna, suggest that patients who become pregnant appear to survive longer than those who do not.