Hypertensive patients with post-traumatic stress disorder missed significantly more doses of their blood pressure drugs than patients without PTSD, researchers found. In a small study, 68% of hypertensive patients with positive screening results for PTSD on a primary care-oriented symptom assessment were judged to be nonadherent to their medications, versus 26% of hypertensive patients with no PTSD symptoms (P=0.001), according to Ian Kronish, MD, MPH, of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues. The study also showed a possible trend toward increasing nonadherence with more severe PTSD, the researchers reported online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Medical school means long hours, hard work and a lot of stress — but third-year medical student Loren Galler Rabinowitz is used to the pressure. Before she enrolled at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, she was a world-class competitive skater, won the Miss Massachusetts pageant, competed for Miss America in 2011 and somehow found the time to graduate from Harvard. Learning to be a good doctor presents a whole new set of challenges. Rabinowitz sat down recently with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook to discuss her experiences as a doctor-in-training.
At age 70, Allan S. is not a gamer, but when his time comes to play Space Fortress for a Columbia study on the aging brain, he eagerly takes his seat in front of a computer monitor, grabs the joystick and starts shooting missiles at the enemy fortress on the screen. …”It’s a frustrating and complex game,” says the cognitive neuroscientist running the study, Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., professor of clinical neuropsychology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. …Allan is in his fifth session with the game and he doesn’t have total control over his ship. “I know what I have to do, but getting that information down into my arm to move the spaceship is slow,” he says. Still, it’s fun, and Allan travels to Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain three days a week to play the game for 45 minutes at a time.
Some morning-after pills may not be a reliable way to prevent pregnancy in heavier women. The European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill, Norlevo, will caution women in new labeling that the product is “not effective” for women over 176 pounds and doesn’t work as well in women who weigh 165 pounds or more. …“The FDA is currently reviewing the available and related scientific information on this issue, including the publication upon which the Norlevo labeling change was based,” said Erica Jefferson, deputy director for the FDA office of media affairs. …Dr. Carolyn Westhoff doesn’t want to see women become overly alarmed by the study. “This is just a single result and we don’t have any way to replicate it,” said Westhoff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
Targeting a pathway that plays a major role in both hepatic glucose production and insulin sensitivity may eventually help treat type 2 diabetes, researchers reported. In a series of experiments in mice, researchers found that inhibition of the kinase CaMKII — or even some of its downstream components — lowered blood glucose and insulin levels, Ira Tabas, MD, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues reported online in Cell Metabolism. The pathway is activated by glucagon signaling in the liver, and appears to have roles in both insulin resistance as well as hepatic glucose production in the liver.
A story of two miracles, two decades in the making, began with the birth of conjoined twin sisters who were later separated by surgery. CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez was in the operating room when the pair were separated and recently brought CBS 2 a joyful follow-up. The separation of Rosa and Carmen Taveras was unusual, but an event that took place earlier this month was nearly unheard of in medical history. …Rosa is only the fourth conjoined twin ever known to have given birth after separation. And, after the extensive pelvic reconstruction that was performed on the twins, Rosa didn’t believe that she would be able to give birth. …Beyond the historical aspects of the birth, the moment was a real payoff for Dr. Steven Stylianos, one of the lead surgeons in the twins’ separation. “When you see a child with those challenges first walk, when you learn that they hit their teenage years and they were just the same as every other girl in school, and now that they’re young women and they’ve had their reproductive capabilities put to the test with a very successful, beautiful, little boy being born — those are really moments to treasure,” Stylianos said.
Fred Kavli, a Southern California philanthropist, physicist, entrepreneur, and founder and chairman of the Kavli Foundation, which promotes scientific research worldwide, died Thursday. He was 86. …The Southern California-based foundation, which awards $1-million cash prizes to spark cutting-edge research, was created by Kavli in 2000 to promote science for the benefit of humanity. The foundation includes research institutes on three continents that specialize in the study of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics. …The foundation has endowed research institutes at universities worldwide, including Columbia University, Yale University, the University of Cambridge, Peking University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Merck & Co on Tuesday said it is expanding its “Merck for Mothers” program, which aims to reduce pregnancy-related deaths from impoverished countries such as Senegal and Zambia, to the United States – a stark reminder of how far the country lags other wealthy nations on key measures of health. “As Americans, we simply should not accept that 46 countries have lower rates” of reported maternal mortality, said Merck Chief Executive Ken Frazier. …The leading maternal killers include cardiovascular disease, venous thromboembolism, hemorrhage, hypertension and sepsis, said Dr Mary D’Alton of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, a specialist in high-risk maternal and fetal medicine. …The program will also work through the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to develop standardized protocols for treating the leading causes of maternal death, said Columbia’s D’Alton.
In this digital age of medicine, it’s hard not to look up your symptoms online — and fear the worst. But hypochondriasis, or hypochondria, can be a serious issue for some who are obsessed with the idea that they may have a life-threatening medical condition. …Medical school students often seem to develop hypochondria as they go through the process of learning about everything that can go wrong with the human body. Loren Galler Rabinowitz, a third-year medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, says she’s seen first-hand how med students tend to think they suffer from the exotic diseases they’re studying. She gives the example of a young man in her class who thought his headaches might be caused by a rare disorder they’d just learned about — even though the condition is normally seen only in elderly women.
Pinpointing the stages and progression of Alzheimer’s is getting more precise. A research team from Columbia University Medical Center has validated a new algorithm for predicting the length of time until full-time care, nursing home residency, and death for Alzheimer’s patients. Led by Dr. Yaakov Stern, professor of neuropsychology at CUMC, researchers followed two sets of Alzheimer’s patients for 10 years. Together, they developed a Longitudinal Grade of Membership (L-GoM) model, which looks at 16 variables in patients. “The benefit of the L-GoM model is that it takes into account the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease,” Stern said. “Patients don’t typically fall neatly into mild, moderate, or severe disease categories. Our method is flexible enough to handle missing data.”
The Endocrine Society today announced it has selected 15 accomplished endocrinologists as winners of the organization’s prestigious 2014 Laureate Awards. …
- John P. Bilezikian, MD – Distinguished Educator Award. This annual award recognizes exceptional achievement as an educator in the discipline of endocrinology and metabolism. Bilezikian is a mentor to a generation of trainees, a major innovator of new educational programs, both nationally and internationally, and a tireless advocate for the recruitment of physicians and physician-scientists in endocrinology. He is Chair of the Endocrine Fellows Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that has, for the past 20 years, provided competitive research grants to endocrinology fellows. Bilezikian is the Dorothy L. and Daniel H. Silberberg Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pharmacology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
- Domenico Accili, MD – Edwin B. Astwood Award Lecture. This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to research in endocrinology. Accili’s new landmark findings in beta-cell differentiation are revolutionizing the understanding of the pathophysiology of diabetes and reshaping the programs for therapy of both type 2 and type 1 diabetes. Accili is the Russell Berrie Foundation Professor of Diabetes (in Medicine) at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of the Columbia University Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center in New York City.
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, a young French geneticist and physician named Gerard Karsenty became curious about a mysterious protein, called osteocalcin, that is found at high concentrations in the skeleton. He worked with mice that had been engineered to lack the substance, expecting to find problems with their bones. But their skeletons appeared essentially normal, he says, a result that left him “deeply depressed.” The mice did have issues, though. Their abdomens were fatty, they had trouble breeding, and they were “stupid,” meaning “they never rebelled or tried to bite or escape,” said Karsenty, now fifty-nine years old and the chair of the department of genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center. He has studied osteocalcin for almost two decades.
Cooperstown has proven an unexpectedly popular place for medical students. When the Bassett Healthcare Network and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons joined forces to start a new 10-student medical school program in the fall of 2010, officials predicted great things. But no one foresaw the program’s popularity with medical school applicants. So far, it has drawn between 698 and 971 applications a year for just 10 slots, said Senior Associate Dean Dr. Walter Franck. That compares to 5,100 to 5,800 applications for 155 spots in Columbia’s regular medical school and MD/PhD programs, he said.
When Dr. Carlos López-Jiménez sees a patient with a blood pressure reading of 225/80, he suggests they go straight to the emergency room. But most of they time they don’t. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent killer. In the U.S., one out of every three adults has it—but not everyone knows it. There are no symptoms. Left untreated, high blood pressure could result in eye disease, kidney failure, heart damage, stroke, vascular dementia and more. “It can wreck everything if not properly diagnosed and treated,” said Dr. J. Thomas Bigger. At a community forum hosted by Columbia University Medical Center this past Wed., Oct. 23rd, doctors talked about how to minimize the risks.
City, state and federal agencies have long known that an industrial site in Ridgewood, Queens, contained radioactive material. The location, currently home to an auto repair shop, a construction firm, a warehouse and a deli, was once used by the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, which sold thorium to the federal government for research on atomic bombs. …The latest comprehensive federal study, released in February 2012, found [contamination] levels significant enough to conclude that “workers at the auto body shop and pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks at this location may have an elevated risk of cancer.” …Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, compares the auto repair shop workers’ annual exposure to a medical CT scan or about 200 chest X-rays. “You wouldn’t voluntarily have a CT scan each year,” Dr. Brenner said. “No one working there should change jobs, but we don’t want anyone to have more radiation than they have to, so it should be cleaned up.”
Researchers have found a way to multiply the cells at the base of the hair that make hair follicles. They transplanted the cells onto human skin grafted onto backs of mice, and within weeks, normal hair was growing. Dr. Jon LaPook discusses the findings.
Scientists have found a new way to grow hair, one that they say may lead to better treatments for baldness. So far, the technique has been tested only in mice, but it has managed to grow hairs on human skin grafted onto the animals. If the research pans out, the scientists say, it could produce a treatment for hair loss that would be more effective and useful to more people than current remedies like drugs or hair transplants. …The new technique would remove a smaller patch of cells involved in hair formation from the scalp, culture them in the laboratory to increase their numbers, and then inject them back into the person’s head to fill in bald or thinning spots. …The senior author of the study is Angela Christiano, a hair geneticist and dermatology professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who has become known for her creative approach to research.
A cottage industry has sprung up facilitating the sale and donation of human breast milk on the Internet, but a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics confirms the concerns of health professionals over this unregulated marketplace. The report found that breast milk bought from two popular Web sites was often contaminated with high levels of bacteria, including, in a few instances, salmonella. The amounts detected in some samples were sufficient to sicken a child. “The study makes you worry,” said Dr. Richard A. Polin, the director of neonatology and perinatology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research. “This is a potential cause of disease. Even with a relative, it’s probably not a good idea to share.”
The federal government is considering whether to allow scientists to take a controversial step: make changes in some of the genetic material in a woman’s egg that would be passed down through generations. Mark Sauer of the Columbia University Medical Center, a member of one of two teams of U.S. scientists pursuing the research, calls the effort to prevent infants from getting devastating genetic diseases “noble.” Sauer says the groups are hoping “to cure disease and to help women deliver healthy, normal children.” But the research also raises a variety of concerns, including worries it could open the door to creating “designer babies.” The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled an Oct. 22 hearing to consider the issues.
Medical students at Columbia University are using digital technology to breathe new life into a process hundreds of years old: dissecting a cadaver from head to toe. …The text in use at Columbia, the “Clinical Gross Anatomy Dissection Manual,” was designed and created by Columbia students themselves, and represents a kind of digital update to the classic “Grant’s Dissector,” a book first published more than 60 years ago and still widely used by medical schools. Paulette Bernd, director of the gross-anatomy program in Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and editor of the digital lab manual, says the manual has been a big help for her students. Last year, her students scored considerably higher grades on their practical exams than students in previous years who didn’t have the manual, says Dr. Bernd, a professor in the medical school. Now, thanks to the manual, she adds, “we find that, even though they need our help, they need it less so than they used to.”
Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for discovering the machinery that regulates how cells transport major molecules in a cargo system that delivers them to the right place at the right time. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm announced the winners: James E. Rothman, 62, of Yale University; Randy W. Schekman, 64, of the University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Thomas C. Südhof, 57, of Stanford University. …Dr. Rothman received a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1976 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1978, he moved to Stanford, where he started his research on the vesicles of the cell. He has worked at Princeton University, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Columbia University. In 2008, he joined the faculty of Yale, where he is chairman of the department of cell biology.
Mr. Speaker, I first heard about mitochondrial diseases, which are fatal, from my chief of staff Art Estopian, who together with his lovely wife Olvita have been caring for their baby after he was diagnosed with TK2 mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome which has left Arturito Jr. unable to move his fingers and toes, putting him in constant need of mechanical support to breathe and to receive nutrition. …But thanks to the experimental treatments Arturito Jr. is receiving from Columbia University Medical Center, medical care at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Hospital, and at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the doctors have established a discharge date for mid-October, an unimaginable expectation just a year ago.
The classroom walls tremble as a room full of 8-year-olds bob heads, shrug shoulders and wriggle around in sync with the thud of the bass. An emcee runs up to the front of the room and yells “hip,” to which the children respond, “hop.” And with that, the “party” has begun. …”Music is an extremely powerful medium,” said Dr. Olajide Williams, founder of the program.. “Great poets have described music as being the bridge between heaven and Earth, but I see music as the bridge between health education and the streets.” For nearly a decade, Hip Hop Public Health has taken public health messages — which, let’s face it, can sound boring if you’re a kid (or an adult, for that matter) — and transformed them using clever rap lyrics and infectious beats. When Williams — whose day job is chief of staff in the Department of Neurology at NY-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center — had the idea of fusing hip-hop and public health, his next thought was that he needed serious help. “I’m really hopeless,” he said, laughing. “I’m a neurologist; I’m not a rapper.”
How many of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. were preventable tragedies, symptoms of a failing mental health system? Steve Kroft reports.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association [and psychiatry chair at Columbia University Medical Center]: “You can be the most popular student; you can be the valedictorian of your class; if you develop schizophrenia it will change the functioning of your brain and change the nature of your behavior.”
The multi-million dollar New York Genome Center (NYGC) officially opened Sept. 19 at a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the philanthropists who contributed to the project. Some of the nation’s most prestigious medical schools and laboratories have come on board as founding member institutions, in an effort to push advancements in genome research through collaboration and data sharing. Researchers hope the center will hasten the development of new diagnostics and treatments for diseases, such as cancer. …The center will aid genome researchers in “making biological and medical sense out of data sets,” and lead to advancements in genomics’ research internationally, said Tom Maniatis, professor and chairman of Columbia University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. Maniatis also serves as the chair of NYGC’s scientific and clinical steering committee, which meets monthly with researchers.
Columbia University marked breaking ground on its 14-story university tower in Washington Heights with a ceremony Monday night. Officials hailed the 100,000-square-foot glass Medical and Graduate Education Center — which will be erected on existing university property at 104 Haven Ave. — as a boon for the university. “It’s a spectacular new building that will be the hub for medical and graduate students at Columbia,” Columbia University Medical Center Dean Lee Goldman said. “It will be iconic in itself,” added Columbia president Lee Bollinger. “It will define this campus and it will define Columbia.” When completed, the tower will offer a virtual simulation-training space for students, a 300-seat auditorium and a courtyard with views of the Hudson River, university officials said.
Long before he brought people into his laboratory at Columbia University to smoke crack cocaine, Carl Hart saw its effects firsthand. Growing up in poverty, he watched relatives become crack addicts, living in squalor and stealing from their mothers. Childhood friends ended up in prisons and morgues. Those addicts seemed enslaved by crack, like the laboratory rats that couldn’t stop pressing the lever for cocaine even as they were starving to death. …At least, that was how it looked to Dr. Hart when he started his research career in the 1990s. Like other scientists, he hoped to find a neurological cure to addiction, some mechanism for blocking that dopamine activity in the brain so that people wouldn’t succumb to the otherwise irresistible craving for cocaine, heroin and other powerfully addictive drugs. But then, when he began studying addicts, he saw that drugs weren’t so irresistible after all. “Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted,” said Dr. Hart, an associate professor of psychology. “And the small number who do become addicted are nothing like the popular caricatures.”
New York’s 16 medical schools have enrolled 120 more students this fall than last year, including the first classes in a pair of three-year programs that allow students to graduate faster and with less debt. More than half of the 2,424 new medical students are state residents, nearly half are women and 3 percent are international students, according to Associated Medical Schools of New York. Most programs last four years with annual tuition ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. …With 168 new students, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons has four who already hold doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences in a new three-year program. They’ll have the same 18-month preclinical training as the others and 16 months of clinical training. Their fourth-year scholarly project will be waived and they’ll be encouraged to pursue an abbreviated residency.
Tough-to-treat staph infections that patients can pick up while in the hospital fell by nearly 30 percent in the last decade, according to U.S. health officials. …Staph strains resistant to the antibiotic methicillin can only be treated with one other antibiotic, and the worry is they will become resistant to that one too. MRSA infections are often picked up while patients are in the hospital being treated for something else, or in other healthcare settings, such as dialysis centers, that people with chronic illnesses visit regularly. …While the new study cannot explain why infection rates are dropping, [lead researcher Dr. Raymund] Dantes said it’s likely attributable, in part, to hospital efforts to reduce the spread of infections. “It’s also possible that there has been evolution of these strains and they’re less invasive,” Dr. Franklin Lowy, from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study in JAMA Internal Medicine, said.
In the United States, about 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. The majority of those diagnosed have what’s called slow-growing cancer. “The man can live for a very long time, without ever developing anything that would be clinically manifested as a tumor,” says Dr. Cory Abate-Shen from Columbia University Medical Center. Doctors traditionally take a tissue sample or biopsy, and determine the stage of the cancer through a tool called the Gleason score. “When a physician is looking into a biopsy, it’s like looking into a crystal ball,” Dr. Abate-Shen says. But now, Dr. Abate-Shen and her team of researchers at Columbia University Medical School say they’ve found a way to make that picture even clearer. …They’ve identified three genes that can be used to predict whether seemingly low-risk prostate cancer will continue to grow slowly. If the genes are present, the cells look subtle and light. “If they are present, then that would suggest that the patient has less chance of developing harmful tumors than if they’re not present,” Dr. Abate-Shen says.
Researchers at Columbia university medical center have come up with a genetic test that may help take the guesswork out of which prostate cancers will become dangerous. Dr. Cory Abate-Shen at Columbia University Medical Center led the study. “We were able to identify accurately 14 out of 14 patients that developed harmful tumors,” she says. Her team found that three genes associated with aging were able to determine which lesions will become aggressive. The darker the staining on the patient’s biopsy, the better. “If you have the markers you’re ok,” she says. “If you don’t have the markers, we have to keep an eye on you.” …Dr. Mitchell Benson at New York Presbyterian/ Columbia says,”If we could be more assured as to saying to someone we don’t think your cancer has aggressive potential, again, that’s going to have a huge impact on men who are facing this very difficult decision.”
Evidence is mounting that camels are the most likely intermediary in the transmission from bats to humans of the virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. While the virus itself has not been found in a camel yet, antibodies that react to it have been discovered in the blood of camels in Sudan, Egypt, Oman and the Canary Islands. The finding suggests that the animals had recovered from infection with the MERS virus or a close relative. …The first confirmed MERS victim, the owner of a paint warehouse in Bisha, Saudi Arabia, had four pet camels, according to Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a virologist at Columbia University who took blood samples from them. Those tests are still being done, Dr. Lipkin said.
THESE days it is easy to get irritated with the exaggerated interpretations of brain imaging — for example, that a single fMRI scan can reveal our innermost feelings — and with inflated claims about our understanding of the biological basis of our higher mental processes. …In fact, recent newspaper articles have argued that psychiatry is a “semi-science” whose practitioners cannot base their treatment of mental disorders on the same empirical evidence as physicians who treat disorders of the body can. The problem for many people is that we cannot point to the underlying biological bases of most psychiatric disorders. …But this is starting to change. Consider the biology of depression. We are beginning to discern the outlines of a complex neural circuit that becomes disordered in depressive illnesses. Helen Mayberg, at Emory University, and other scientists used brain-scanning techniques to identify several components of this circuit, two of which are particularly important.
Eric R. Kandel, a professor at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia, a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, is the author of “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain, From Vienna 1900 to the Present.”
Viruses have a knack for ambush. Time and again, they have struck our species without warning, producing new diseases. H.I.V. burst on the scene in the early 1980s, and it took years for scientists to figure out that it had evolved from a chimpanzee virus in the early 1900s. …We might be able to take away this element of surprise if we had a catalog of all the viruses lurking in mammals. …“No one’s really been addressing this question, even though it seems like such a fundamental one,” said Simon J. Anthony, an associate research scientist at Columbia University and a researcher at EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based scientific research organization. In a new study published in the journal mBio, Dr. Anthony and his colleagues have taken an initial step toward such a catalog by exhaustively searching for all the viruses that infect a single species of mammal — a bat known as the Indian Flying Fox. …If the other 5,485 known species of mammals have a similar level of virus diversity, Dr. Anthony and his colleagues estimate that they would have at least 320,000 viruses in total. …Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University … pointed out that the presence of a short genetic fragment of a virus is not proof that it actively infects an animal. That sort of certainty would require finding evidence that the viruses are replicating. “In such a broad survey of viruses in a bat, it’s very hard to obtain this evidence,” he said.
It’s a tough situation: you have a fatal condition. You require care beyond what family members can provide at home. But with a prognosis of more than six months to live, you are not ready for hospice care. And an intensive care unit is too, well, intense, to say nothing of expensive. So what do you do? Now there’s another option. Some hospitals are offering so-called palliative care units. …“Lots of older people with advanced chronic illnesses are not ready for hospice,” said Marlene McHugh, assistant professor of nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing and a co-author of a recent study focused on the acute palliative care unit at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “We’re going to see more and more of this as patients age.”
Researchers say a protein called RBAP48, found in the hippocampus of the brain, seems to be involved in normal, age-related memory decline. When levels of the protein were raised in elderly mice, memory was improved. Dr. Jon LaPook reports.
Shortly before Eric Kandel’s appearance on the show on August 30, 2013, ScienceFriday.com caught up with the Nobel Prize winner to learn more about his passion for science and art, where he does his best thinking, and why he likes bow ties.
Science Friday: When did you know you wanted to become a scientist?
Eric Kandel: I think there was no one less likely to become a scientist than myself. I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1929. I was kicked out by the Nazis in 1939, and I came to the United States. I was interested in European intellectual history—I wanted to understand how people could listen to Hadyn, Mozart, and Beethoven one day, and beat up on the Jews the next—and I went to Harvard with the idea of specializing in that area.
Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize winner in Medicine who visited the Writers Institute in 2006, is the lead researcher of a new study on memory in the brain (with new implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease). The study is receiving widespread media coverage, and widespread attention in the neuroscience community. The 84-year-old laureate came to the New York State Writers Institute to present his memoir, In Search of Memory, about his boyhood as a member of a Jewish family in Nazi Germany and his remarkable career at the leading edge of neuroscience.
If you’re finding it harder to remember where you put the car keys, the culprit could be a brain protein with a name that’s easy to forget: RbAp48. A shortage of this protein appears to impair our ability to remember things as we age, researchers in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine. And boosting levels of RbAP48 in aging brains can reverse memory loss, at least in mice, they say. The protein was studied in an area of the brain that is generally unaffected by Alzheimer’s disease. The research “reinforces the emerging idea that Alzheimer’s disease and aging are separate entities,” says Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University and one of the study’s authors. It also suggests that, eventually, it should be possible to treat memory loss that’s not related to Alzheimer’s.
A new study provides new evidence that Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss are different conditions — and also shows how age-related memory loss may be reversible. In research published online Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, scientists from Columbia University Medical Center identified a gene, RbAp48, which influences age-related memory loss in the brain. By increasing or decreasing the expression of the gene in the brains of mice, they were able to control memory loss. …”The molecular pathway we found in aging has not been implicated in Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Scott Small, professor of neurology and director of Columbia’s Alzheimer’s Research Center, a senior author of the study, told the Daily News. “That goes back to confirm the very important anatomical distinction between Alzheimer’s and aging.”
Scientists have found a compelling clue in the quest to learn what causes age-related memory problems, and to one day be able to tell if those misplaced car keys are just a senior moment or an early warning of something worse. …Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center examined brains, young and old ones, donated from people who died without signs of neurologic disease. They discovered that a certain gene in a specific part of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, quits working properly in older people. It produces less of a key protein. …”It’s the best evidence so far” that age-related memory loss isn’t the same as early Alzheimer’s, said Nobel laureate Dr. Eric Kandel, who led the Columbia University team. …”As we want to live longer and stay engaged in a cognitively complex world, I think even mild age-related memory decline is meaningful,” added Columbia neurologist Scott Small, a senior author of the study. “It opens up a whole avenue of investigation to now try to identify interventions.”
Sleep apnea patients may soon have several new treatments to choose from. Not one involves an annoying face mask. …The new treatments include nasal attachments, devices that suck the tongue forward and surgical implants that deliver stimulation to a nerve near the base of the tongue. Doctors see these as alternatives—rather than replacements—for CPAP. In studies so far, the new therapies haven’t been directly compared with CPAP, but their efficacy rates aren’t as high. “While they all are promising treatments, I would say CPAP, CPAP, CPAP,” says Robert Basner, director of the cardiopulmonary sleep and ventilatory disorders center at Columbia University Medical Center. (He received a research grant from a CPAP manufacturer in 2011.)
[Denise] Bratina was a participant in a study of chromosomal microarray analysis, a new kind of test that allows doctors to examine fetal DNA in amniocentesis samples for such tiny genetic variations. Microarray analysis is part of a sea change in prenatal testing, according Ronald Wapner, a reproductive genetics expert at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, who led the study. In just the past two to three years, Wapner says, “the genetic testing that’s available for pregnancies has become phenomenally more advanced.” …In a study published in December in the New England Journal of Medicine, Wapner compared microarray analysis to the standard method of amniocentesis analysis, called karyotyping… The researchers found that the new technology was as good as karyotyping in finding abnormal numbers of chromosomes (a reason for Down syndrome, for instance). But it also found DNA abnormalities that karyotyping had missed, including some associated with learning disorders, autism and schizophrenia, as well as three rare disorders, Prader-Willi syndrome, Jacobsen syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome.
Health officials confirmed Wednesday that bats in Saudi Arabia were the source of the mysterious virus that has sickened 96 people in the Middle East, killing 47 of them. The outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has been going on for 15 months, with most victims falling ill in Saudi Arabia and others growing sick after having traveled to the Middle East. In a study released Wednesday, an international team of doctors blamed coronavirus in bats for the human outbreak, but said that many questions remained, in part because a perfect match for the virus was found in only a single insect-eating bat out of about 100 Saudi bats tested. And since such bats do not normally bite people, drool on fruit or do other things that might transmit the disease to people, it was still unclear how the virus leapt to humans. …Further tests on camels, sheep, goats and a cow will be finished soon, said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, head of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, which has already done 15,000 polymerase chain reaction tests tracking the virus. “It’s a huge amount of work,” he said.
Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. …Ironically, while many patients in the United States are inappropriately diagnosed with depression, many who actually have it suffer without treatment. Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, noted that from the time they develop major depression, it takes Americans eight years on average to seek care. Diagnosing depression is an inherently subjective task, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the president of the American Psychiatric Association. “It would be great if we could do a blood test or a lab test or do an EKG,” Dr. Lieberman said, noting that similar claims of overtreatment have been made about syndromes like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “A diagnosis is made by symptoms and history and observation.” …Dr. Lieberman suggested watchful waiting may be appropriate in some cases, and more integrated forms of health care may soon make it easier to send patients to a mental health provider “down the hall.”
At least 14 studies have shown that patients with a serious mental illness receive worse medical care than “normal” people. Last year the World Health Organization called the stigma and discrimination endured by people with mental health conditions “a hidden human rights emergency.” …Several major medical schools now have programs in the medical humanities, an emerging field that draws on diverse disciplines including the visual arts, humanities, music and science to make medical students think differently about their patients. …Perhaps the most notable of these efforts — and so far the only one of its kind — is the narrative medicine program at Columbia University Medical Center, which starts with the premise that there is a disconnect between health care and patients and that health care workers need to start listening to what their patients are telling them, and not just looking at what’s written on their charts.
“The United States is unique among industrialised countries in its tight linkage between health insurance and employment.” So begins a new NBER working paper by Craig Garthwaite of Kellogg, Tal Gross of Columbia University’s School of Public Health and Matthew Notowidigdo of Chicago Booth. …But their aim is serious enough: to predict the effect of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s health reform, on labour markets. To do so, however, they have examined a case where public health provision shrank, rather than grew. In the early 2000s Tennessee’s equivalent of Medicaid, called TennCare, was one of the most comprehensive programmes in the country, offering insurance to those who had previously had trouble obtaining it, regardless of income level. But TennCare grew beyond its projected budgets, and in 2004 the state pulled back, refusing to cover those over the age of 19 who would not have qualified by Medicaid’s standards. Between 2005 and 2007 160,000 Tennesseans—4% of the state’s population—were kicked off TennCare’s rolls. …The share of childless adults in employment, however, did rise sharply. …It stands to reason, the authors conclude, that if limiting access to public health care causes people to rejoin the workforce, then expanding access will cause some to leave the workforce―between 530,000 and 940,000 childless adults is their guess.
Obesity kills far more Americans than we think it does, according to a controversial new study that suggests obesity accounts of about 18 percent of all deaths in the United States – three times previous estimates. The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests the latest government estimates soft-pedal the dangers of obesity. And the controversy over the findings show how difficult it is to calculate the costs of being overweight. …But Ryan Masters, who did the latest study while at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Columbia University, says he’s found obesity is the cause of 20 percent of deaths among women and 15 percent of men.
Recent research shows kids who have unexplained stomach aches may be at higher risk for depression and anxiety disorders by the time they become adults. …CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, who is also a professor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, points out that these stomach aches without known causes aren’t just imaginary, or made up excuses to skip class. …The diagnosis of functional abdominal pain just means doctors have ruled out other diagnosable causes of the discomfort, including appendicitis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, a blockage or infection. But the pain is still very much real, and for some may lead to anxiety. He points out Dr. Michael Gershon, professor and chairman of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia, coined the phrase the “second brain” when referring to the gut, because it contains hundreds of millions of nerve cells — called the enteric nervous system — which communicate with the brain. For example, people may feel a sensation of “butterflies” in their stomach when nervous.
Camels may be a carrier of the mysterious virus that has infected at least 94 people in the Middle East and killed half of them, scientists are reporting. The virus, first detected last year in Saudi Arabia, causes Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which begins with flulike symptoms and can progress to severe pneumonia. …Now, a scientific team from a dozen universities is reporting that dromedary camels (the kind with one hump) from Oman and the Canary Islands show signs of past infection with the MERS virus or one very much like it. …Some researchers praised the study. Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a virus expert at Columbia University who has been studying MERS, said, “I think it’s compelling evidence that dromedaries are infected with MERS or a related coronavirus.” The study does not prove that the animals have infected humans, he added, but he said it is plausible because people in the Middle East have a great deal of contact with camels as racing animals, pets and sources of food.