Parents’ Religiosity May Influence Suicidal Risk in Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Priya Wickramaratne PhD Associate Professor of Clinical Biostatistics (in Psychiatry) Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons Columbia University New York State Psychiatric Institute New York

Dr. Wickramaratne

Priya Wickramaratne PhD
Associate Professor of Clinical
Biostatistics (in Psychiatry)
Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Approximately 12% of adolescents in the United States report having thoughts about attempting suicide. Moreover, suicide is a primary cause of death among females 15 to 19 years of age. Religious and spiritual beliefs have received little attention in previous research examining risk and protective factors of child and adolescent suicide. This study used data from a three-generation study of 214 children and adolescents from 112 nuclear families whose parents were at high or low risk for major depressive disorder to study the association of children and parent’s religious beliefs with risk of suicidal behavior in the children.

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Understanding the Neuroscience of Creativity Through Music Improvisation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Andrew Goldman PhD Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University Andrew Goldman PhD
Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University
Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience,
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Many Western musicians have difficulty improvising, despite having extensive training and experience. These musicians learn about and use similar musical structures in their playing (like chords, scales, rhythmic patterns, etc.) as experienced improvisers, but they may know about them in different ways. In other words, different musicians have different ways of knowing and learning about similar musical structures. To understand which ways of knowing facilitate the ability to improvise contributes to an understanding of how people are able to use knowledge creatively. Western music provides an important opportunity to compare these different ways of knowing because in other improvisatory domains of behavior (like speaking), it is difficult to find people who know how to do it but cannot improvise with it (e.g., if you know a language, you can very likely improvise with that language).

In order to advance our understanding of these improvisatory ways of knowing, we compared musicians with varying degrees of improvisation experience in a task that tested how they categorized musical chords. In Western music, different chords are theorized to have similar “functions.” For example, on a guitar, there are different ways to play a C chord, and you could often substitute one for the other. You might even play another chord in place of the C chord and have it sound similar, or lead to a similar subsequent harmony. Improvisers often use notation that specifies classes of chords rather than specific realizations (versions) of a chord whereas those who do not typically improvise use notation that specifies the full realization of the chord. By analogy, one chef might use a recipe that calls for “citrus” (in music, a class of musical chord) while another chef’s recipe might specifically call for “lemon” (in music, a specific realization of a functional class of chords). We tested whether improvisers categorize similar-functioning harmonies as more similar to each other than different-functioning harmonies, and compared how less experienced improvisers categorize the same harmonies.

Our task required the musicians to listen to a series of repeating harmonies (the “standard” stimuli) and pick out occasional chords that were different in any way (the “deviant” stimuli). Some deviant stimuli were different versions of the standard chord (like limes in place of lemons) and some deviant stimuli were chords with different musical functions (like bananas instead of lemons).

The more experienced improvisers were better at detecting the function deviants than the exemplar deviants whereas the less experienced improvisers showed little difference in their ability to detect the two types of deviants. In other words, because improvisers categorize the different versions of the same chord as similar, they have a relatively harder time picking out the similarly functioning harmonies. This was measured using behavioral data, and electroencephalography (EEG), which can be used to provide a neural measure of how different stimuli are perceived to be from each other.

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ADHD More Common if Grandmother Used DES During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD Assistant Professor Environmental Health Sciences Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University 

Dr. Kioumourtzoglou

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD
Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. One of the hypothesized risk factors for increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders is a class of chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine system, i.e. the system that uses hormones to control and coordinate metabolism, reproduction and development. Several high production volume chemicals, ubiquitously present in commercial products, are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Because of their widespread use in consumer products, the population-wide exposure to known and suspected EDCs is very high.

Recently, there has been increased attention in the potential effects of EDCs on neurodevelopment that span multiple generations. Animal studies have provided evidence that exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), alter the behavior and social interactions in mice in three to five generations after exposure. However, evidence of such multi-generational impacts of EDC exposure on neurodevelopment in humans is unavailable, likely because of the lack of detailed information on exposures and outcomes across generations.

For this study we leveraged information from a nationwide cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), to investigate the potential link between exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and third generation ADHD, i.e. ADHD among the grandchildren of the women who used DES while pregnant. DES is a very potent endocrine disruptor that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to pregnant women thought to prevent pregnancy complications. In the United States, between 5 and 10 million women are estimated to have used DES, although the exact number is not known. DES was banned in 1971, when was linked to vaginal adenocarcinomas (a rare cancer of the reproductive system) in the daughters of the women who had used it during pregnancy. Since then, DES has been also linked to multiple other reproductive outcomes in DES daughters, as well as with some reproductive outcomes in the grandchildren of the women who used it, such as hypospadias and delated menstrual regularization. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has evaluated the association between DES, or any other EDC, and multigenerational neurodevelopment.

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ADHD More Common in Grandchildren of Women Who Used DES During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD Assistant Professor Environmental Health Sciences Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University 

MarianthiAnna Kioumourtzoglou ScD
Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. One of the hypothesized risk factors for increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders is a class of chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine system, i.e. the system that uses hormones to control and coordinate metabolism, reproduction and development. Several high production volume chemicals, ubiquitously present in commercial products, are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Because of their widespread use in consumer products, the population-wide exposure to known and suspected EDCs is very high.

Recently, there has been increased attention in the potential effects of EDCs on neurodevelopment that span multiple generations. Animal studies have provided evidence that exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), alter the behavior and social interactions in mice in three to five generations after exposure. However, evidence of such multi-generational impacts of EDC exposure on neurodevelopment in humans is unavailable, likely because of the lack of detailed information on exposures and outcomes across generations.

For this study we leveraged information from a nationwide cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), to investigate the potential link between exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and third generation ADHD, i.e. ADHD among the grandchildren of the women who used DES while pregnant. DES is a very potent endocrine disruptor that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to pregnant women thought to prevent pregnancy complications. In the United States, between 5 and 10 million women are estimated to have used DES, although the exact number is not known. DES was banned in 1971, when was linked to vaginal adenocarcinomas (a rare cancer of the reproductive system) in the daughters of the women who had used it during pregnancy. Since then, DES has been also linked to multiple other reproductive outcomes in DES daughters, as well as with some reproductive outcomes in the grandchildren of the women who used it, such as hypospadias and delated menstrual regularization. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has evaluated the association between DES, or any other EDC, and multigenerational neurodevelopment. Continue reading

Teen Marijuana Use Did Not Increase After Passage of Medical Marijuana Laws

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“medical marijuana : strains and varieties” by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0Professor Deborah Hasin PhD
Department of Epidemiology in Psychiatry
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: We began to think about this study after we published an earlier report (Hasin et al., The Lancet Psychiatry 2015) showing that after state medical marijuana laws (MML) were passed, U.S. teen marijuana use did not increase compared to the period before the laws were passed and to overall national trends. However, people continued to question whether MML led to teen increases in marijuana use. Therefore, in the present study, we combined findings from 11 large-scale national studies of teens to provide a more definite answer.

The findings were clear that teen marijuana use did not increase after passage of medical marijuana laws.  Continue reading

SVC As Marker of Respiratory Decline in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jinsy Andrews, MD, MS Director of Neuromuscular Clinical Trials Columbia University The Neurological Institute New York, NY 10032 

Dr. Andrews

Jinsy Andrews, MD, MS
Director of Neuromuscular Clinical Trials
Columbia University
The Neurological Institute
New York, NY 10032 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The importance of respiratory function in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has long been recognized. Despite ALS being a clinical diagnosis with variable presentation and variable rates of disease progression, all patients experience respiratory symptoms and inevitably die typically from respiratory failure. At present there is no validated biomarker of disease progression or clinical staging system. Direct measure of respiratory function in ALS is important and can be measured using vital capacity. Although the forced maneuver (FVC) has been widely used in patients with ALS, it can underestimate the actual lung capacity by causing fatigue or inducing bronchospasm in patients with ALS. More recently, the slow maneuver (SVC) has been used since it can be obtained from patients with advancing disease which can potentially minimize missing data and may reduce any underestimation of actual lung capacity due to a forceful effort. However, the prognostic value of the decline in SVC is unclear in patients with ALS.

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Despite Evolution, Genetic Diseases Persist

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carlos Eduardo G. Amorim PhD Columbia University Department of Systems Biology Irving Cancer Research Center

Dr. Amorim

Carlos Eduardo G. Amorim PhD
Columbia University Department of Systems Biology
Irving Cancer Research Center 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: More generally, we were interested in understanding the determinants of the frequencies of mutations that cause disease in humans.

More specially, we wanted to test if a long-standing theory in population genetics (namely mutation-selection balance) was a good explanation for the observed frequencies of disease mutations in humans.

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Hip and Knee Replacements More Common In Patients With Transthryretin Cardiac Amyloidosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Mathew Maurer, Medical Director The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Maurer

Dr. Mathew Maurer, Medical Director
The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center
NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Transthryretin cardiac amyloidosis (TTR-CA) is an underdiagnosed type of cardiomyopathy in which TTR (transthyretin, also known as prealbumin), a protein that forms amyloid fibrils, deposits in the heart. The deposits cause thickening of the ventricular wall and diastolic as well as systolic dysfunction. It is usually discovered around age 75 and presents more commonly in men than in women. With advances in non-invasive diagnostic modalities and growing awareness, TTR-CA is being diagnosed increasingly more frequently. Additionally, there are several emerging treatments that are under active investigation. Most of these therapies prevent disease progression and don’t address the amyloid already deposited in the heart. Accordingly, it is imperative that we diagnose TTR-CA before patients develop significant amyloid heart disease. However, this presents a great challenge since there are few known clinical predictors that might alert even the most astute physician that a patient is at such risk. With identification of predictors that may appropriately raise the index of clinical suspicion, clinicians may begin to pick up more subtle (and perhaps not yet clinically significant) forms of TTR-CA and initiate treatment before significant damage occurs.

The few known clinical predictors of TTR-CA include bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and lumbar spinal stenosis, and numerous studies found TTR on biopsies and autopsies of other musculoskeletal sites, particularly in hip and knee joints. (Just last week, and also discussed here on MedicalResearch.com, biceps tendon rupture was also shown to occur more frequently in TTR-CA!) We suspected that patients who ultimately develop TTR-CA may first develop clinically significant hip and knee disease, enough to even warrant a hip (THA) or knee (TKA) replacement.

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Dual Antithrombotic Therapy with Dabigatran after PCI in Atrial Fibrillation 

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Christopher P. Cannon MD Executive Director, Cardiometabolic Trials, Baim Institute Cardiologist Brigham and Women's Hospital Baim Institute for Clinical Research Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Dr. Cannon

Professor Christopher P. Cannon MD
Executive Director, Cardiometabolic Trials, Baim Institute
Cardiologist Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Baim Institute for Clinical Research
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The trial explored whether a dual therapy approach of anticoagulation and P2Y12 antagonist – without aspirin – in non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) patients following percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and stent placement would be as safe, and still efficacious, as the current standard treatment – triple therapy. For more detailed background on the study, readers may want to review the first paragraph of the article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Results showed significantly lower rates of major or clinically relevant non-major bleeding events for dual therapy with dabigatran, when compared to triple therapy with warfarin.

In the study, the risk for the primary safety endpoint (time to major or clinically relevant non-major bleeding event) was 48 percent lower for dabigatran 110 mg dual therapy and 28 percent lower for dabigatran 150 mg dual therapy (relative difference), with similar rates of overall thromboembolic events.

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Praluent Plus Statins Reduce LDL In High Risk Cardiovascular Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

VP Head of Cardiovascular Development and Head Global Cardiovascular Medical Affairs Sanofi

Dr. Edelberg

Dr. Jay Edelberg MD, PhD
VP Head of Cardiovascular Development and
Head Global Cardiovascular Medical Affairs
Sanofi 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from the data that Sanofi and Regeneron is presenting at ESC Congress 2017?   

Response: This year at European Society of Cardiology (ESC,) we are pleased to present analyses that further demonstrate additional efficacy and tolerability of Praluent (alirocumab).

While statins remain the first-line treatment, Praluent has shown a consistent benefit as an additional therapy to high-intensity statins in patients with clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and/or heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH), allowing many patients to achieve low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels previously considered unattainable in this patient population.

Our data further emphasize the need for additional cholesterol-lowering options in these high cardiovascular (CV) risk patient populations, including individuals living with diabetes 

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CALM Study Launches Trial of MobiusHD Carotid Implant For Resistant Hypertension

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Gregg W. Stone MD Professor of Medicine Columbia University Director of Cardiovascular Research and Education Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy New York Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center Co-Director of Medical Research and Education The Cardiovascular Research Foundation New York, NY

Dr. Stone

Gregg W. Stone MD
Professor of Medicine
Columbia University
Director of Cardiovascular Research and Education
Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy
New York Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center
Co-Director of Medical Research and Education
The Cardiovascular Research Foundation
New York, NY


MedicalResearch.com:
How does the MobiusHD system work?

Response: The MobiusHD System is a thin stent-like device which is implanted during a minimally invasive procedure into the carotid artery. The MobiusHD modifies the activity of baroreceptors located in the carotid artery, increasing arterial vasodilation to reduce blood pressure.

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Diet Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Foods May Help Preserve Brain Function

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yian Gu, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology (in Neurology and
Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain)
Columbia University Medical Center

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We have previously shown that elderly individuals who consume healthier diet (certain foods, nutrients, and dietary patterns) have larger brain volume, better cognition, and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The current study aimed to examine the biological mechanisms for the relationship between diet and brain/cognitive health

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Long Term Memories Can Be Selectively Erased

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Samuel Schacher, PhD and
Jiangyuan Hu, PhD,
Department of Neuroscience
Columbia University Medical Cente
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York, NY 10032, USA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It is well established that learning and memory requires changes in the properties of specific neural circuits in the brain activated by the experience. The long-term storage of the memory is encoded through changes in the function of the synapses within the circuit. Synapses are sites of communication between neurons, and the changes in their function come in two varieties: increases in strength and decreases in strength. The encoding of memories typically requires some combination of these synaptic changes, synaptic plasticity, which can last a long time to contribute to long-term memory. Thus the maintenance of a memory will require the persistent change (long-term synaptic memory) in the function of specific synapses.

But memories come in different flavors. In the original experiment by Pavlov, a neutral tone, which dogs ignore, came to predict the immediate appearance of a meal. After several of these pairings, the dogs would become happily excited just with the tone. The same type of conditioning could have a negative valence – the tone could proceed a shock to one of the dog’s paw. Now the neutral tone would predict a negative stimulus and the dog would express fearful behavior just with the tone (associative learning). A non-associative form of memory would be the same types of stimuli but without the preceding neutral stimulus. At random times the animal will be given a meal or a shock. The behavior of the animal for some time will take on the positive or negative features of its environment – a contented versus depressed condition.

Each of these forms of long-term memory would be maintained by increases in the strength of specific synapses.

The questions addressed in our study published in Current Biology, based on previous work in my lab and the lab of my colleague Wayne Sossin at McGill, were:

1) Do the same molecules maintain increases in synaptic strength in the neurons of the circuit after stimuli that produce long-term classical conditioning (associative learning) and long-term sensitization (non-associative learning)?
2) If different molecules maintain the different synaptic memories, is it possible to reverse or erase the different synaptic memories by interfering with the function of the different molecules?
3) If true, can we reverse the different synaptic memories expressed in the same neuron by interfering with the function of the different molecules.

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Pot Plus Alcohol Raises Fatal Traffic Accident Risk Over 500%

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Guohua Li DrPH, MD Professor and Director Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention Department of Epidemiology Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University

Dr. Li

Guohua Li DrPH, MD
Professor and Director
Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention
Department of Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Drugged driving has become a serious problem in the United States in the recent years due to increased consumption of marijuana and opioids. About 20% of fatally injured drivers used two or more substances, with alcohol-marijuana being the most commonly detected polydrug combination.

Our study of over 14000 fatal 2-car crashes indicates that drivers testing positive for alcohol, marijuana, or both are significantly more likely to be responsible for initiating these crashes than those using neither of the substances. Specifically, compared to drivers not using alcohol and marijuana, the risk of being responsible for initiating fatal crashes increases 62% for those testing positive for marijuana and negative for alcohol, 437% for those testing positive for alcohol and negative for marijuana, and 539% for those testing positive for both alcohol and marijuana. These results suggest that when used in combination, alcohol and marijuana have a positive interaction on the risk of fatal crash initiation.

The most common driver error leading to fatal 2-car crashes is failure to keep in proper lane, followed by failure to yield right of way and speeding.

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Frequent Marijuana Use Linked To Increased Risk of Severe Periodontal Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jaffer A Shariff DDS MPH cert.DPH Periodontal Resident | Research Scientist Division of Periodontics, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine New York

Dr. Shariff

Jaffer A Shariff DDS MPH cert.DPH
Periodontal Resident | Research Scientist
Division of Periodontics,
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine
New York

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes has become increasingly common in recent years; it is the most commonly used recreational drug in the United States. Subsequent increase in its legalization among countries including the United States for recreational purposes, poses an emergent oral and periodontal health concerns.

Our study revealed that frequent recreational marijuana users exhibited deeper periodontal probing depths, clinical attachment loss and higher odds of having severe periodontal disease than the non-frequent users, even after controlling for other risk factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking.

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Autism Increases Risk of Death From Injury, Especially Drowning

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joseph Guan

MPH Candidate in Epidemiology, Certificate in Chronic Diseases Epidemiology
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The prevalence of autism has been increasing especially in the past two decades. With an estimate of more than 3.5 million people living with autism in the US, approximately 500,000 of them are children under 15 years old. Current studies show that males are approximately four times as likely than females to be diagnosed with autism. There is also evidence that people with autism are at a heightened risk of injury. However, the research on the relationship between autism and injury is understudied.

We found that 28% of deaths in individuals with autism were due to injury, compared to 7% of deaths in the general population. Injury deaths in individuals with autism occurred at a much younger age (29.1 years) on average compared to injury deaths in the general population (54.7 years). Our study show that drowning was the leading cause of injury death among individuals with autism, followed by suffocation and asphyxiation. Children under the age of 15 years were 160 times more likely to die from drowning.

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No Increased Health Consequences After Chinese Famine Except Schizophrenia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

L. H. Lumey, MD, PhD Professor of Epidemiology Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University

Dr. Lumey

L. H. Lumey, MD, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine in 1959-1961 is the largest famine in human history. Earlier studies have reported that overweight, type 2 diabetes, hyperglycemia, the metabolic syndrome and schizophrenia were more common among adults who were exposed to the famine. Our re-analysis of all previous studies shows no increases in diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions among famine births except for schizophrenia.

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Ketamine Before Stressful Event May Reduce Risk of PTSD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Christine Ann Denny, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry Columbia University Division of Integrative Neuroscience Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc. New York, NY 10032-2695

Dr. Christine Ann Denny

Christine Ann Denny, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Columbia University
Division of Integrative Neuroscience
Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc.
New York, NY 10032-2695

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses, affecting about 8 million adult Americans, and an annual prevalence of about 3.5% worldwide. At-risk populations such as soldiers and veterans are at a higher risk to develop PTSD. Stress exposure is one of the major risk factors for PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD), a disorder which is often co-morbid with PTSD.

There are currently very limited treatments for PTSD and MDD. In addition, these disorders are treated in a symptom-suppression approach, which only mitigate symptoms and work in only a small fraction of patients. Prevention is rarely an approach considered except in the form of behavioral intervention. However, pharmacological approaches to preventing psychiatric diseases has not yet been developed.

Our laboratory has previously found that ketamine, a general anesthetic and rapid-acting antidepressant, administered sub-anesthetically prior to stress can prevent against stress-induced depressive-like behaviors. We decided to delve into the literature to determine whether ketamine has any effects on PTSD in the clinic. We found numerous reports linking ketamine to PTSD, but the results were varied. We realized that the main difference in all of these studies was the timing of administration. We decided to systematically test the efficacy of ketamine in mice at various time points relative to a stressor to determine when would be the most effective window to buffer against heightened fear expression.

We found that ketamine administered 1 week, but not 1 month or 1 day, prior to a stressor was the most effective time point to administer the drug to buffer fear. This is critical, as it suggests that a pharmacological approach to enhance resilience can be more effective at protecting against PTSD symptoms than attempting to mitigate symptoms after it has already affected an individual.

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PCSK9 Inhibition with Alirocumab Increases Removal of LDL Cholesterol

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Henry N. Ginsberg, MD

Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
Columbia University
Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons
New York, NY

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies in mice and cells have identified increased hepatic low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors as the basis for LDL lowering by PCSK9 inhibitors, but there have been no human studies characterizing the effects of PCSK9 inhibitors on lipoprotein metabolism, particularly effects on very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL) or LDL metabolism.

This study in 18 healthy subjects, found that alirocumab decreased the number of IDL and LDL particles in the circulation, and their associated cholesterol and apoB levels by increasing efficiency of the clearance of IDL and LDL. There were not effects on VLDL metabolism. The increased clearance of IDL meant that less LDL was produced from IDL, which is the precursor of LDL. Thus, the dramatic reductions in LDL cholesterol resulted from both less LDL being produced and more efficient clearance of LDL. These results are consistent with increases in LDL receptors available to clear IDL and LDL from blood during PCSK9 inhibition.

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AI plus Genetic Database Drives Personalized Cancer Treatment

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Kai Wang Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, University of Southern California Institute for Genomic Medicine, Columbia University

Dr. Kai Wang

Dr. Kai Wang
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, University of Southern California
Institute for Genomic Medicine, Columbia University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Cancer is a genetic disease caused by a small number of “driver mutations” in the cancer genome that drive disease initiation and progression. To understand such mechanism, there are increasing community efforts in interrogating cancer genomes, transcriptomes and proteomes by high-throughput technologies, generating huge amounts of data. For example, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project has already made public 2.5 petabytes of data describing tumor and normal tissues from more than 11,000 patients. We were interested in using such publicly available genomics data to predict cancer driver genes/variants for individual patients, and design an “electronic brain” called iCAGES that learns from such information to provide personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment.

iCAGES is composed of three consecutive layers, to infer driver variants, driver genes and drug treatment, respectively. Unlike most other existing tools that infer driver genes from a cohort of patients with similar cancer, iCAGES attempts to predict drivers for individual patient based on his/her genomic profile.

What we have found is that iCAGES outperforms other tools in identifying driver variants and driver genes for individual patients. More importantly, a retrospective analysis on TCGA data shows that iCAGES predicts whether patients respond to drug treatment and predicts long-term survival. For example, we analyzed two groups of patients and found that using iCAGES recommend drugs can increase patients’ survival probability by 66%. These results suggest that whole-genome information, together with transcriptome and proteome information, may benefit patients in getting optimal and precise treatment. Continue reading

Fetal Structural Defects Detected Later in Pregnancy Than Chromosomal Abnormalities

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sarah Horvath, MD
Paula M. Castaño, MD, MPH
Anne R. Davis, MD, MPH

Columbia University Medical Center

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Approximately 3% of pregnant women in the United States will receive a prenatal diagnosis of fetal aneuploidy (such as trisomy 21) or fetal structural abnormality (such as cardiac or CNS malformations). Many of these women will undergo abortion. Advances in screening over the past few decades have allowed earlier diagnosis of aneuploidy, but most structural abnormalities cannot be diagnosed until the anatomy ultrasound at 18-20 weeks gestational age because of fixed patterns of fetal development. Our analysis examines gestational age at time of abortion for these two types of fetal diagnosis from 2004-2014.

Our main finding was that median gestational age at time of abortion for fetal aneuploidy decreased from 19 weeks to 14 weeks. However, over the same 11 year period, median gestational age at time of abortion for fetal structural abnormalities remained unchanged and at or above 20 weeks gestation.

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Association Between Dietary Intake and Function in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Jeri Nieves PhD Director of bone density testing New York's Helen Hayes Hospital

Dr. Jeri Nieves

Dr. Jeri Nieves PhD
Director of bone density testing
New York’s Helen Hayes Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating severe neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle atrophy, paralyses, and eventual respiratory failure.

Our objective was to evaluate the associations between nutrition and severity of ALS around the time of diagnosis. This was a cross-sectional analysis of data from a multicenter cohort of 302 patients with ALS. We assessed nutrient intake using a modified Block Food Frequency Questionnaire. The outcomes were respiratory function (measured using percentage forced vital capacity; FVC%) and functional performance measured by ALS Functional Rating Scale–Revised (ALSFRS-R), both considered important indicators of the severity of ALS. Results of the regression analysis were that higher intakes of antioxidants and carotenes from vegetable intake were associated with higher ALSFRS-R scores or better %FVC.

We used a novel analysis to evaluate the diet as a whole and found that higher intakes of antioxidants, fiber from grains, vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish, and poultry were all associated with higher function in patients with ALS. However, milk and lunch meats were associated with lower measures of function. These consistent results from two different statistical analyses indicate that diet may help minimize the severity of ALS. Perhaps these findings point to the role of oxidative stress in ALS severity.

In summary, increased consumption of antioxidant nutrients, foods high in carotenoids and fiber, vegetables and fruits, poultry and fish are associated with better function around the time of ALS diagnosis.

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Risk of Pregnancy-Associated Stroke Across Age Groups

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Eliza Miller, M.D
.
Vascular Neurology Fellow
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
We collaborated with researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and with the New York State Department of Health.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Prior research has found that older women of childbearing age are at higher risk of stroke during pregnancy and postpartum than younger women. We hypothesized that their increased stroke risk might not be due to pregnancy-related factors, but just due to the fact that stroke risk increases with age for all people. We used billing data from New York State hospitals to calculate incidence risk ratios for four age groups: 12-24, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-55. In each age group, we compared the incidence of stroke in women who were pregnant or postpartum to the incidence of stroke in women of the same age who were not pregnant.

As in prior studies, we found that the incidence of pregnancy-associated stroke was higher in older women compared to younger women (about 47/100,000 deliveries in the oldest group, versus 14/100,000 deliveries in the youngest group). However, the incidence ratios showed that pregnancy increased stroke risk significantly in women under 35, but did not appear to increase stroke risk in women over 35. In the youngest group (age 12-24), pregnancy more than doubled the risk of stroke, and in the 25-34 age group, pregnancy increased stroke risk by 60%. In women aged 35 and older, pregnancy did not increase stroke risk. Women who had pregnancy-related strokes tended to have fewer traditional vascular risk factors like hypertension and diabetes, compared to same-aged women with non-pregnancy related strokes.

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Maternal Use of SSRIs May Be Related to Speech and Language Disorders in Offspring

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Alan S. Brown, M.D., M.P.H. Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology Columbia University Medical Center Director, Program in Birth Cohort Studies, Division of Epidemiology New York State Psychiatric Institute

Dr. Alan Brown

Alan S. Brown, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology
Columbia University Medical Center
Director, Program in Birth Cohort Studies, Division of Epidemiology
New York State Psychiatric Institute 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Maternal use of antidepressants during pregnancy has been increasing.  A previous study from a team that I led in a national birth cohort in Finland showed that mother’s use of a serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant is related to an increased risk of depression in offspring.  We sought to evaluate whether these medications also increased risk of speech/language, scholastic, and motor outcomes in offspring.  We found an increased risk (37% higher risk) of speech/language disorders in offspring of mothers exposed to SSRIs in pregnancy compared to mothers who were depressed during pregnancy but did not take an SSRI during pregnancy.

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Antibiotics Encourage Spread of C.diff To Subsequent Patients Who Occupy the Same Bed and Haven’t Received Antibiotics

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Daniel E. Freedberg MD M

Dr. Daniel E. Freedberg

Dr. Daniel E. Freedberg MD MS
Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We conducted this study because previous studies indicate that the gastrointestinal microbiome is easily shared between people who co-occupy a given space (such as a hospital room).  We wondered if antibiotics might exert an effect on the local microbial environment.

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