Five studies you may have missed
Overworked nurses may raise the risk of patient death, according to a new study.
February 28th, 2014
08:17 AM ET

Five studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Your nurse needs a break. I wouldn’t complain if I were you 
Journal: The Lancet

An overworked nursing staff raises the risk of patients dying, while hiring better-educated nurses reduces those odds, a study of European Union hospitals that have undergone recent staffing cuts concludes.

Adding one patient to a nurse’s workload raises the chances of a patient dying by 7%. But a 10% increase in nurses with bachelor’s degrees reduced those odds by the same amount, researchers from several EU countries reported in The Lancet.

“Nurse staffing cuts to save money might adversely affect patient outcomes. An increased emphasis on bachelor's education for nurses could reduce preventable hospital deaths,” they concluded.

The study examined discharge data from more than 400,000 patients over 50 from 300 hospitals in nine European countries.

Read more from The Guardian

Mice skin cells transformed into liver cells
Journal: Nature

In a development that could give hope to patients awaiting transplants, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and its affiliated Gladstone Institute have been able to reprogram skin cells into working liver cells in mice. The scientists caution that the results are early, but the cell growth showed no signs of slowing down after nine months.

“In the future, our technique could serve as an alternative for liver-failure patients who don’t require full-organ replacement, or who don’t have access to a transplant due to limited donor organ availability,” UCSF scientist Holger Willenbring said in announcing the results.

The study involved using reprogramming genes and chemical compounds to take skin cells back to a form that resembles endoderm cells, which mature into many of the body’s major organs. Willinbring and Gladstone senior investigator Sheng Ding cultivated the cells in a petri dish, then “coaxed” them into growing into liver cells through another set of genes and chemicals.

“Many questions remain, but the fact that these cells can fully mature and grow for months post-transplantation is extremely promising,” Willenbring said.

Read more from UT-San Diego

Twins’ brains show same marks of Alzheimer’s
Journal: Brain Pathology

Twins who died after suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had similar areas of damage to their brains, a project by researchers in California and Sweden concluded.

The scientists studied the brains of seven pairs of twins who died after years of diagnostic tests - among them the brains of identical twins who died at age 98 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The results support previous findings that genetics may determine how vulnerable someone is to Alzheimer’s and other conditions, said University of Southern California psychologist Margaret Gatz, who led the study.

"We looked not just at the hallmark indicators of Alzheimer's, but at all the other damage in the brain. Across the whole array of neuropathological changes, the identical twins appeared to have more similar pathologies," Gatz said in announcing the findings. "This is fascinating. It's not just a key pathology related to the twins' diagnoses but the combination of things happening in their brains.”

Gatz and Diego Iacono of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute drew their subjects from the Swedish Twin Registry, which Gatz has delved into for decades to study aging. The findings add more data to suggest that rather than a single cause, Alzheimer’s develops from a range of factors that genetics may affect.

The kids are all right: The rest of you, hit the gym
Journal: Journal of the American Medical Association

Despite years of warnings about obesity, the number of severely overweight Americans hasn’t changed in a decade. On the bright side, it hasn’t gotten any worse, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service found.

Researchers calculated that 17% of children and 35% of adults were obese in 2011-2012. The figures show “no significant changes” since 2003, they reported.

There is one bright spot in the study: a “significant decrease” in obesity rates in children between the ages of 2 and 5, from 14% in 2003 to about 8% in the 2011-2012 figures. But that drop was offset by a sharp increase in women over 60, the researchers found.

“Obesity prevalence remains high, and thus it is important to continue surveillance,” they noted.

Read more from The Washington Post

New knowledge literally reshapes your mind
Journal: Nature Neuroscience

University of British Columbia researchers have found that learning brings together a fatty acid and a brain protein that combine to connect brain cells - a finding that may provide an explanation for some mental disabilities.

The biochemical change “is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning,” the Vancouver-based university said in announcing the results. And it’s the first time scientists have described the role of that protein, known as delta-catenin, in the process of forming memories.

Animals who were exposed to new environments had almost twice the amount of modified delta-catenin in their brains, co-authors Shernaz Bamji and Stefano Brigidi reported. Learning more about the role the protein plays in building brain cells could help understand how degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease work, they say.

Read more from Science Daily

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Filed under: Cancer

February 27th, 2014
02:10 PM ET

Study: Children of older fathers face higher risk of psychiatric disorders

Do men have a biological clock of sorts? A large new study suggests they may.

Compared to younger fathers, older fathers' children were found to be significantly more at risk for a host of psychiatric disorders, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

For example, the children of fathers ages 45 and over were three times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, and 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the children of fathers aged 20 to 24.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2.6 million children born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the effects of paternal age.


MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels
February 25th, 2014
04:11 PM ET

MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels

Scientists are making strides in unraveling the mystery of the MERS coronavirus, which so far has sickened at least 182 people, including 79 deaths.

While human cases have been traced back to September 2012, according to the World Health Organization, researchers in the United States and in Saudi Arabia have found evidence of MERS in camels going back at least 20 more years.

By taking samples from front and hind orifices of camels in all parts of Saudi Arabia, scientists found evidence of MERS in 74% of all dromedaries (single-hump camels) living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a new study. FULL POST

February 24th, 2014
04:15 PM ET

Low radiation risks outside Fukushima zone, study finds

The safety measures imposed after the 2011 meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant appear to have averted widespread health risks to the surrounding population, Japanese scientists say.

People who live on the outskirts of the evacuation zone surrounding the plant received only slightly more radiation than normal background doses in the year following the world's second-worst nuclear accident, researchers at Kyoto University concluded. The study indicates that the fallout from the crippled plant presents little hazard to those outside the closed zone, even in towns along its edges.

"In conclusion, food supply and associated regulations are considered effective in the study areas in Fukushima thus far, and external exposure is a major component of the radiation dose rate," the researchers found. FULL POST

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Filed under: Cancer

February 24th, 2014
04:07 PM ET

Acetaminophen in pregnancy linked to 'ADHD-like behaviors'

Doctors frequently recommend acetaminophen, commonly found in over-the-counter pain relievers including Tylenol, to pregnant women for treating mild pain.

But a new study out of Denmark suggests the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy could be associated with ADHD-like behavioral problems in children.

“(Pregnant women) shouldn’t worry at this point,” says study author Dr. Beate Ritz, professor and chair of the epidemiology department at the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health. “But if I were a woman who was pregnant ... I would try to avoid taking painkillers as much as I can until we know more about this.” FULL POST

Vegetarian diet may lower your blood pressure
A cup of edamame contains 676 mg of potassium, which may help lower your blood pressure.
February 24th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Vegetarian diet may lower your blood pressure

Nearly a third of American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Often called the "silent killer" because it provides few warning signs, hypertension increases a patient's risk for heart attack and stroke.

New research suggests eating a vegetarian diet could help combat this deadly disease.

A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mm HG. Previous studies have shown that each increase of 20/10 mm Hg in that number doubles the patient's risk of cardiovascular disease. But lowering that top number just 5 mm HG can reduce your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by about 7%. And eating more fruits and vegetables may be a good way to do that, according to the new study, published Monday in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine. FULL POST

5 studies you may have missed
February 21st, 2014
08:38 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Changing schools linked to psychotic symptoms
Journal: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

When a child switches schools, it may have more dire consequences for him or her than one might think.

Researchers at the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom examined data from almost 14,000 children born between the years 1991 and 1992. They found increased signs of psychosis among children who switched schools three or more times in early childhood. These symptoms included hallucinations and interrupting thoughts.


Zit-causing bug bears Frank Zappa's name
Frank Zappa's name has been bestowed on jellyfish, spiders and an asteroid -- and now, an acne-causing bacterium.
February 18th, 2014
05:04 PM ET

Zit-causing bug bears Frank Zappa's name

In 1968, Rolling Stone reported on how Frank Zappa influenced the Beatles. Nearly 50 years later, Zappa has inspired scientists to name a acne-causing bug after him.

Sound weird? Actually, it’s not. All kinds of beetles (Steven Colbert, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld), plants (Princess Diana orchid, President Obama moss ) and animals (John Cleese's wooly lemur ) are just some of the organisms named after celebrities.


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Filed under: Conditions • Germs

February 17th, 2014
03:13 PM ET

Bullying's mental health toll may last years

Victims of bullying may suffer mental and physical consequences even after bullying occurs, research shows.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that bullying is associated with poor physical and mental health among children, particularly among those who were bullied in the past and are being currently bullied.

The effects were strongest among children who were bullied continuously, in more than one grade, particularly in terms of psychological health, said lead author Laura Bogart, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Psychological measures included negative emotions such as anger and depression.

"We were able to show that these effects of bullying snowballed and compounded over time," Bogart said. FULL POST

5 studies you may have missed
A pizza herb could be the key to killing off Norovirus, scientists say.
February 14th, 2014
08:12 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

That car comes with an obesity feature
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Do you own a car? A computer? A TV? You're probably moving less, sitting more and buying bigger pants than someone who doesn't.

After analyzing data from more than 150,000 people in several countries, researchers said owning all three was associated with a 31% decrease in physical activity, 21% increase in sitting and a 3.54-inch increase in waist size. They also found a 400% increase in obesity and a 250% increase in diabetes among owners of these items in low-income countries.

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.