Lake Michigan Swim to Benefit Cancer Research

Swim Across America events have raised roughly $50 million for cancer research nationwide.

Swim Across America events have raised roughly $50 million for cancer research nationwide.

As many as 10 former Olympians, along with scores of others, will participate in the Swim Across America (SAA) fundraiser Saturday, July 26, at Ohio Street Beach in Chicago. It is SAA’s 21st annual Chicago event.

Swim Across America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming events across the country.

The fundraiser benefits the Rush University Cancer Center, which comprises all of the clinical, research and educational efforts at Rush University Medical Center. SAA is aiming to top the more than $400,000 raised at last year’s event.

“What Swim Across America has achieved in Chicago and around the country is incredible,” said David McClellan, SAA Chicago event director. “We always set our sights high, but we expect a record-breaking 2014 event in hopes of funding groundbreaking cancer research at Rush.”

Read the news release.

Circadian Rhythm Disruption May Contribute to Disease

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Robin Voigt, PhD

A disruption of circadian rhythms, when combined with a high-fat, high-sugar diet, may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and other harmful conditions, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Rush University Medical Center. The study is online at the peer-reviewed, open-access journal, PLOS ONE.

“Circadian rhythms, which impose a 24-hour cycle on our bodies, are different from sleep patterns,” said Robin M. Voigt, PhD, assistant professor at Rush Medical College and first author of the study. “Sleep is a consequence of circadian rhythms,” Voigt said.

While circadian rhythm disruption may be common among some, the research suggests that it may be contributing to a host of diseases that may be prevented by regulating things such as sleep/wake patterns and times of eating to help prevent circadian rhythm disruption. Including prebiotics or probiotics in the diet can also help normalize the effects of circadian rhythm disruption on the intestinal microbiota to reduce the presence of inflammation.

“It’s something that needs to be addressed — not something people need to be very concerned about, but aware. If you have some of these other risk factors, like a high-fat, high-sugar diet,” or a genetic tendency toward disruption in circadian rhythms, “take precautions, watch your diet, take pre- and probiotics, monitor your health, be vigilant,” Voigt said.

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Alzheimer’s May Be More Prevalent Among African-Americans

ImageA new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center reviews research that suggests that the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease among older African-Americans may be two to three times greater than in the non-Hispanic white population and that they differ from the non-Hispanic white population in risk factors and disease manifestation. The study results are published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

“The older African-American population is growing at a rapid pace, and the burden of aging-related cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease will continue to present a tremendous challenge,” said Lisa Barnes, PhD. “This study highlights the importance of research among minority groups within the communities in which hospitals serve.”

Barnes is the primary author and director of the Rush Center of Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and professor of Neurological Sciences and Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center.

“The lack of high-quality biologic data on large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities poses barriers to progress in understanding whether the mechanisms and processes of Alzheimer’s disease operate the same or differently in racial and ethnic minorities and, if so, how, particularly in the high-risk African-American population,” said Barnes.

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that 20 percent of the population ages 65 and older was a racial or ethnic minority member. Current projections suggest that by 2050, 42 percent of the nation’s older adults will be members of minority groups. Among those ages 85 and older, 33 percent are projected to be a minority.

Read the entire release for more information on the study.

How Calcium is Involved in Irregular Heartbeats

heartbeat_thinkstock_edited-1Researchers at Rush have identified the underlying mechanism of calcium-triggered cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. The discovery, described in the Jan. 19 issue of Nature Medicine, has major implications for the development of molecularly designed drugs specifically targeted at this form of arrhythmia.

The study was led by Wayne Chen, PhD, professor of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush and professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of Calgary-Libin Institute. Michael Fill, PhD, professor of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush, collaborated on the research.

Cardiac arrhythmias can cause dizziness and fainting, or in severe cases, sudden death. While many factors, including genetics, contribute to the development of arrhythmias, research has shown that a common cause of cardiac arrhythmias is calcium overload. Calcium overload disrupts the finely controlled electrical activity governing contraction of heart muscle.

Calcium is stored inside cardiac cells, much like skeletal muscle cells, in preparation for contraction. The protein responsible for release of calcium is known as the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2), or the calcium release channel, which acts like a safety valve that prevents calcium overload.

Read the news release.

‘Designer’ Fiber May Ease IBS Symptoms

MutluEce_edited-1A newly-developed, “designer” dietary fiber with an added potential prebiotic effect may eliminate the side effects of current treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10 to 20 percent of the population, disproportionately women.

The collaboration between a gastroenterologist at Rush and a carbohydrate chemist at Purdue University led to the development of the new product, a natural starch derived from a mixture of seaweed and starch in which the release of starch fiber in the gastrointestinal tract can be delayed, slowed and controlled to occur in the colon, rather than in the stomach and upper intestine.

“This new product prevents the discomfort and bloating associated with current fiber therapies, while getting our new fiber into the colon and specifically distal colon where traditional fiber products typically do not reach and where many diseases of colon-like cancers develop,” said Dr. Ece Mutlu, principal investigator the phase II trial that will begin at Rush in January 2014. “This can provide an effective treatment for IBS, decrease the risk of colon cancer and possibly inflammatory diseases like colitis,” she added. The study seeks 200 people who have been diagnosed with IBS and constipation.

In an earlier Phase I study with 60 patients suffering from constipation, the newly designed fiber was shown to be safe, better tolerated and with fewer side effects than currently available fiber treatments for constipation, and it had a positive effect on intestinal microbiota composition by promoting the growth of “healthy” bacteria in the colon.

Read the news release.