Entries in Duke University (4)


Some Cases of Heart Disease May Be Reversible

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has some doctors thinking that some cases of coronary heart disease may be able to be reversed.  

A study conducted by researchers at Duke University took MRI images of 1,055 patients with known heart disease. Of those patients, approximately 20% suffered from thinning of the heart wall. The study also found that approximately one-fifth of those patients with heart wall thinning also had limited or no scarring of the heart muscle.

In those patients with thinned heart walls but limited or no scarring, cardiologists were able to located the major blood vessel that supplies the thinned area of the heart and perform a surgical procedure meant to improve blood flow.

After the surgery, a common procedure known as revascularization, the patients' hearts were found to flow better and eventually the thinned area of the heart wall reversed itself.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has researchers believing that an MRI of the heart could help doctors decide if their patients could see a reversal of coronary heart disease with revascularization.

According to the CDC, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Half of American Couches Could Be Toxic

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Next time you plop down on the sofa, you may be sitting on something toxic.  

Researchers at Duke University say more than half of couches in American homes contain potentially harmful flame retardants linked to hormone disruption, cancer and neurological damage.  

One of the chemicals found was “Tris,” a retardant that used to be used in baby pajamas, but was phased out because animal tests suggested it could be a human carcinogen. Heather Stapleton, one of the researchers at Duke, said that recently manufactured couches were more likely to contain such chemicals.

“Overall, we detected flame-retardant chemicals in 85 percent of the couches we tested and in 94 percent of those purchased after 2005,” Stapleton said.  She added that a California regulation requiring couches to withstand an open flame for 12 seconds has essentially become a national manufacturing standard, and led to more couches being treated with chemical flame retardants.

The American Chemistry Council says there's no data that indicates the levels of flame retardants in couches would cause any harm, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission says there's also no evidence the flame retardants offer significant fire protection.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Duke Sued Over Cancer Trials

Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg via Getty Images(DURHAM, N.C.) -- A lawsuit filed in North Carolina’s Durham County Superior Court accuses Duke University, Duke University Heath System and five doctors of exposing patients to unnecessary chemotherapy during fraudulent clinical trials.

The trials, which began in 2007 and 2008, were based on work by Dr. Anil Potti -- a former Duke cancer researcher who claimed to have developed a test that could predict which lung cancer patients would benefit from chemotherapy.

The trials were temporarily halted in 2009 when other researchers couldn’t replicate Potti’s results. But the trials resumed after an internal investigation. The lawsuit alleges the findings were withheld.

In 2010, it was discovered that Potti had falsely claimed he was a Rhodes Scholar on his resume and on a grant application. He resigned from Duke. And medical journals including Nature Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet Oncology pulled his work. The clinical trials were also stopped.

The 90-page lawsuit alleges that Duke ignored warnings about flaws in Potti’s research and even tried to cover them up. The lawsuit  makes two dozen claims, which range from to negligence to fraud.

“Duke conducted clinical trials on cancer patients that should never have occurred. The trials were based on bad science,” plaintiff attorney Thomas Henson told ABC11. “Researchers across the country had been telling Duke and warning Duke about the bad science.”

Of eight patients named as plaintiffs, only two are alive today. One of the lawsuit claims, “loss of chance,” suggests patients who participated in Potti’s trials missed out on other treatment opportunities.

Duke spokeswoman Sarah Avery told ABC11 that  the university was actively investigating Potti’s research and possible misconduct.

In the meantime, ABC11 reports that Potti is still practicing medicine at the Coastal Cancer Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Powerful Tool May Get Us Closer to Understanding Autism

Comstock/ThinkstockPowerful Tool May Get Us Closer to Understanding Autism

(DURHAM, N.C.) -- Autism symptoms have been replicated in mice using one gene mutation, one of the first so-called single-gene knockouts that scientists say puts them another step closer to understanding a genetic link to autism, researchers at Duke University reported.

Their findings were published Sunday in the journal Nature.

Scientists examining genetic traits or environmental exposures that can contribute to autism have previously replicated behavioral symptoms of autism in mice. But these mouse models of autism replicated only a few specific behavioral traits associated with autism.

This new model, according to researchers, used a known gene mutation associated with autism -- called the SHANK3 gene mutation -- to replicate a wider range of behaviors that include impaired social interaction and repetitive behaviors.

Scientists have struggled for years to find effective medical treatments for autism, mainly because they have been unable to understand the pathways in the brain that cause the disorder.

Previous studies suggest that SHANK3 gene mutation is one of a series of rare genetic mutations that are linked to autism. The SHANK3 gene mutation has been identified in nearly 16 percent of children with autism. Earlier studies, however, do not pinpoint the exact role the mutations played in the disorder.

"Having an animal model that can teach us more about how a specific gene mutation is correlated with behavior is critically important to our understanding of the overall biology of autism," said Andy Shih, vice president of scientific affairs at the nonprofit Autism Speaks.

The current findings may offer some insight in the relationship between SHANK3 mutations and the characteristic traits of autism. Some experts say it's hard to tell whether insights that will be gained from the SHANK3 mutation will translate to the other genetic mutations that are associated with autism.

Still, Dr. Thomas Insel of the National Institutes of Health said, so-called single-gene knockouts such as this have been one of the first instrumental steps in better understanding the mechanism of many now manageable conditions in humans, including heart disease and hypertension.

"This is a big step," he said. "But we need a lot more big steps to get to finding early diagnostic and medical treatments.

"It doesn't yet tell us where a new treatment or diagnosis will be. But this is part of the process."

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio

ABC News Radio