Aging Reversed in Mice, Say Scientists

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Scientists have turned back the clock in mice they engineered to age faster than normal, an advance they suggest is the first time aging in mice has been reversed.

Researchers at Harvard-affiliated medical centers genetically manipulated mice to age faster, and then used gene therapy to lengthen telomeres -- compounds found at the ends of strands of DNA -- which reversed age-related problems such as decreased brain function and infertility.

"We at best expected it to be a slowing of the process or perhaps an arresting of the process. We did not anticipate that it would be so dramatic a reversal in all of the problems that the animal was experiencing," said Dr. Ronald DiPinho, professor of medicine at Harvard University Medical School and co-author of the paper published Sunday in the journal Nature. "We were so struck by the findings that we rushed to get the study published."

A human cell holds 23 pairs of chromosomes, each containing protective caps at each end called telomeres. Enzymes called telomerases protect the telomeres and reduce DNA damage thought to contribute to tissue aging. But as we age, our cells produce less telomerase; telomeres are cut shorter and eventually fail to protect DNA from damage.

Researchers boosted telomerase in the mice cells -- which hold 20 pairs of chromosomes -- to prevent telomeres from getting shorter. They found restoring the enzyme not only stopped aging but revived failing organs and even restored dark fur to mice who had turned grey. DePinho said the mice that were equivalent to ages 80 to 90 in human years returned to the equivalent of middle age.

"This [research] indicates there's a point of return for these tissues," said DePinho. "The fact that you can bring a tissue to the brink and then bring it back this dramatically is remarkable."

Previous studies suggest that even in humans, shorter telomeres may be associated with age-related diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

In fact, the brains of the age-modified mice were 75 percent of the size of a normal brain, much as happens in a patient with Alzheimer's disease. But when researchers reactivated the telomerase, the brains returned to a normal size, according to the study.

The aging process is complex and telomeres are just one element that contributes to its course. But DePinho said this is one step in learning more about not only the slowing of aging, but also the reversal.

"Telomere dynamics in mice has taught us the role of telomeres in [diseases like] cancer and helped us better understand how to take advantage of these situations," said DePinho.

Still, DePinho said the research is an early look down the pipeline for subsequent studies. Researchers plan to study the potential benefits in normal aging in mice before understanding whether the process might work in humans.

"We want to understand what contribution this makes to the aging process in conjunction with other factors that are responsible for the aging process," said DePinho. "We need to do a more careful analysis of these tissues and their cells to ascertain whether or not we could further regulate the process."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients Grow Weary of Doubt

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are largely unknown, but some possible triggers include infectious agents, immunological dysfunction and nutritional deficiency.

The condition has long been surrounded by controversy. For years, many doctors wouldn't recognize chronic fatigue syndrome as a legitimate disorder. Many CFS patients say they have visited doctors who are totally unaware of the illness. When tested, patients' lab work often comes back clear, and because of this, some doctors have argued that the condition is psychological, not physiological.

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University School of Medicine, researchers found that CFS was associated with an increased prevalence of personality disorders. Authors also said that personality may be a risk factor for CFS and may contribute to the maintenance of the illness.

But Dr. Elizabeth R. Unger, acting chief of CDC's Chronic Viral Diseases Branch and spokesperson for the study, said that personality disorders may not cause CFS but rather, act as a secondary symptom of any chronic or severe disease.

"Other studies have found personality disorders were associated with fatigue and depression, as well as with chronic fatigue syndrome," said Unger. "The objectives of this study were to follow up on previous personality research as well as to describe the prevalence of personality disorders in people with CFS."

In the study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the authors examined more than 500 patients from Georgia. More than 100 participants had been diagnosed with CFS, 264 participants had unexplained fatigue without CFS and another 124 healthy participants made up the control group.

Investigators administered the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire, a survey used by health professionals to screen clients for various personality disorders. Study authors said that 29 percent of participants with CFS had at least one personality disorder, compared with 28 percent of the non-CFS patients and seven percent of the control group.

"A lot of people cried foul when this study came out, and since then, there has been rigorous debate," said Dr. Nancy Klimas, a professor of medicine, psychology, microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "My reaction from my own clinical experience is: No, I don't believe that. My patients tend not to have those [personality] issues."

"I feel bad about this study because these poor patients get nothing but attitude, they're patronized and have a poor standard of care," said Klimas. "It's just not right. They're terribly ill and they deserve better than that. "

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Should Parents Put Fat Babies on Diets?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With obesity rates among children doubling in the past two decades, more and more parents are putting their babies on diets, doctors say.

Pudgy cheeks that once drew "ooohs and aaahs" are eliciting "ughs" from some parents who have struggled with their own weight issues and fear their children will toddle along the same path.

"I have seen parents putting their infant and one-year-old on diets because of history in one parent or another," said Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, who chairs the nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is chief of neonatology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

Some parental panic about roly-poly arms and tubby tummies may be tied to a 2009 study that showed rapid weight gain in the first weeks and months of infancy predicts obesity and high blood pressure in childhood and adulthood.

The answer, however, is not to put your baby on a diet. Rather, the best start for a baby is breast-feeding, along with close monitoring by the child's doctor.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tiger Woods Effect: More Sex Addicts Seek Help

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- In the year since golfer Tiger Woods checked into a Mississippi sex rehabilitation clinic, the number of those seeking treatment for sex addiction has jumped by 50 percent, according to Robert Weiss, founding director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, which opened in 1995.

An estimated five to six percent of all Americans admit to the addiction, most of them men.

The month after Woods went into rehab, the Sexual Recovery Institute began offering information sessions that have been drawing 35 to 50 people a week. Its website has had 13,000 hits in the last 30 days.

There has been disagreement in the scientific community over whether people can be addicted to sex in the same way as drugs or alcohol. Two characteristics of substance abuse are building up a tolerance over time and going through withdrawal when deprived. The American Psychiatric Association does not even include sex addiction in its Diagnostics Standards Manual IV, although it is under review for the next edition.

Sex addiction, like overeating and compulsive spending and gambling, is a process addiction -- a neurobiological arousal disorder that involves the interplay of the hormones serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. Broadly defined by the Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, sex addiction is "any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one's work environment."

The compulsive behavior is triggered by anxiety, and continues in a vicious cycle of stress, release and then shame, which ignites the anxiety again. The roots often lie in childhood.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Eating Disorders Strike Younger and Younger

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Anorexia and its sister-disorder, bulimia, have historically been thought of as striking white, middle- to upper-class teenage girls.  But a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns doctors that eating disorders are happening to younger girls -- and boys -- at an alarming rate.

"People tend to have this idea of who gets eating disorders, but an eating disorder doesn't discriminate between age, gender, race, or class," says Johanna Kandel, founder and director of the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"Some research says that as much as ten percent of those with eating disorders are under the age of 10.  What I'm finding at the alliance is that the number of parents seeking help for their 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds is escalating rapidly," she says.

A 2009 analysis found that in the last decade, hospitalizations for eating disorders more than doubled among children under twelve and now account for four percent of all such hospitalizations.

"Pediatricians need to be aware of the early symptoms of eating disorders because they are the medical professional that a child is mostly likely to see in any given year," says Dr. Jim Lock, director of the Eating Disorder Program at Packard Children's Hospital.  "They are the gatekeepers."

It used to be that the onset of an eating disorder tended to be around mid-adolescence, around age fifteen or around the time of first menses at about age thirteen.  So why are there a growing number of girls who are showing signs of bingeing and purging as young as eight?

It could be hormonal, Lock says, as the onset of puberty has been occurring earlier over time, but a big trigger might be the dropping psychological onset of puberty as opposed to the physiological one.  In terms of interest in appearance, clothing, social behavior and sexualization, girls at twelve are experiencing what girls at fourteen were experiencing just a decade ago, Lock says.  Culturally, the cues to be concerned with appearance are being delivered to girls at younger and younger ages.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Consuming Sugar Makes You Sweeter?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- If someone is as sweet as sugar, it could be that they really are what they eat.

Researchers at Ohio State University contend that sugar might have something to do with making people a little nicer and less likely to become aggressive.

The experiment involved giving subjects lemonade either sweetened with sugar or containing an artificial substitute to simulate a less bitter taste.  Those who consumed the sugared drink seemed to behave less violently toward a stranger in a confrontation set up by the researchers.

There have already been studies on diabetics and aggression.  Interestingly, diabetics tend to act out more aggressively because they experience low levels of glucose, which aids in self-control.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Whole Foods Pulls Bravo Farms Cheese

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Whole Foods pulled seven types of cheddar cheese from its shelves Saturday, joining a recall of Bravo Farms product possibly linked to an outbreak of E. Coli and listeria in five western states.

The Los Angeles Times reports the cheese was sold at stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.

Affected varieties reportedly include Sage Cheddar, Silver Mountain Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Premium Block Cheddar, Premium White Chunk Cheddar, Chipotle Chunk Cheddar and White Black Wax Cheddar.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Toxic Butt-Boosting Injections: Why Is It Still Happening?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's not the first time patients have allegedly been harmed by a risky, unapproved approach to a larger, curvier backside -- and it probably won't be the last.

So say cosmetic surgeons in response to the latest news of another untrained practitioner -- this time a 28-year-old model in New Brunswick, N.J. -- facing charges of practicing medicine without a license in offering butt-boosting injections, according to reports this week in the Star-Ledger.

Anivia Cruz-Dilworth allegedly injected six women in the buttocks with silicone bathtub caulk in March. The women reportedly showed up in hospital emergency rooms complaining of problems, several requiring surgery to treat serious bacterial infections.

Illegal butt-boosting procedures have sent other women to the hospital in recent years as well. Cosmetic surgeons said the occurrence of such procedures is evidence that much of the public remains uneducated about the difference between the risky, unapproved practice and legitimate cosmetic surgery.

"This is a real problem, especially with the slow economy," said Dr. Julius Few, commissioner of cosmetic medicine for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

"More people are trying to achieve an enhancement, all over the body, the 'easy way,' and large volume silicone injections to the buttock is an example. It seems easy, you see the change right away, and it is cheap because industrial-grade material is used, not medical."

Buttock augmentation was up 37.5 percent in 2009 from the previous year and buttock lifts were up 34.6 percent, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


South Beach Diet Beats Others in Keeping Weight Off

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(COPENHAGEN) -- Many diets can take the weight off -- but when it comes to keeping it off, not all regimens are created equal, according to new research. A diet consisting of high-protein foods and ones with a low glycemic index is best for maintaining weight loss, said a large European study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The South Beach diet is the commercial weight loss plan that most closely approximates the best diet in the study, according to study author Thomas Meinert Larsen from the University of Copenhagen. The Atkins diet is much higher in protein, severely limits carbs, and has a more liberal attitude towards the types of fats one may eat.

The study followed roughly 780 participants who had already lost weight on a calorie-restricting diet and were randomly assigned to one of five different weight management programs.

Participants who ate foods higher in protein and with a low glycemic index not only stuck to their maintenance diets better, but were also more likely to continue to lose weight over the course of the 26-week study. In contrast, those assigned to diets consisting of foods low in protein with a higher glycemic index were more likely to regain weight.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Joose, Four Loko to Be Pulled from Shelves by Mid-December

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- Warnings from the Food and Drug Administration to the manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, like the popular and much criticized Four Loko, have not fallen on deaf ears.

The FDA Wednesday announced that “significant progress” has been made after four manufacturers were warned that the addition of caffeine to alcoholic beverages was not approved.

Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, has advised the FDA that it has stopped shipments of its products and expects to have them off store shelves by Dec. 13.
The maker of another highly popular drink, Joose, expects to have its products off of shelves on the same day.  United Brands has also informed the FDA that it no longer markets Max, another caffeinated alcoholic beverage.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio